Sign-up For New Conservation Stewardship Program Announced
Rob Fredericksen, Resource Conservationist
For More Information:
Technical Info: Rob Fredericksen, 208.685.6993
General Info: Alexis Collins, 208.685.6978
Boise, Idaho, August, 10, 2009 — USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) today begins a continuous sign-up for the Conservation Stewardship Program which is a voluntary conservation program that encourages agricultural and forestry producers to improve or maintain existing conservation activities and adopt additional ones on their land.
The program will be offered to producers in all 50 states, District of Columbia and the Pacific and Caribbean areas through a continuous sign-up. The cutoff date for the first sign-up period is September 30; another proposed cutoff date will be in January 2010.
“The program is offered to agriculture and forestry producers nationwide through a continuous sign-up,” said Idaho State Conservationist, Jeff Burwell. “To be considered in the first ranking period, producers must submit their applications by Sept. 30.”
“Congress capped the annual acreage enrollment at 12,769,000 acres for each fiscal year nationwide,” Burwell added.
To apply for the Conservation Stewardship Program, potential participants can complete a self-screening checklist to determine if the Conservation Stewardship Program is suitable for them or their operation. The checklist is available on the NRCS Web site and at NRCS field offices.
The application process requires producers to:
Have farm records established with USDA Farm Service Agency,
Be the operator of the land,
Provide evidence that they have control of the land for 5 years, and;
Provide a map delineating their entire agriculture or forestry operation.
“To be considered in the first round of funding,” Burwell said, “this information needs to be in place before an application can be accepted and before the ranking cutoff date.” Applications will be ranked by estimating environmental performance based on the producer’s current and proposed conservation activities.
After establishing an applicant’s eligibility, NRCS field staff will field verify application information. Once the information is verified and the application has been tentatively approved for funding, the applicant must develop a conservation stewardship plan. A producer must treat at least one resource concern and one priority resource concern during the length of their five-year contract.
Eligible applicants may include individual landowners, legal entities, and Indian tribes. Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, pastureland, rangeland, non-industrial private forestland, and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe. Land enrolled in the Conservation Security Program, Conservation Reserve Program, Grasslands Reserve Program and Wetlands Reserve Program are ineligible for the new Conservation Stewardship Program.
The program, authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill, revamped the former Conservation Security Program (CSP), improving its availability to both agricultural and forestry producers.
The new program is very different from the old CSP. All contracts under the old CSP will be honored until the end of the contract term.
Agricultural operators with critical resource concerns on their land or who need assistance with structural or other conservation practices can apply for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) first, then consider future enrollment in the Conservation Stewardship Program.
USDA is currently finalizing the new Conservation Stewardship Program’s policies and procedures. The interim final rule, published in the Federal Register, is open for public comment through Sept. 28 (http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/farmbill/2008/pdfs/E9-17812.pdf).
For additional information about the Conservation Stewardship Program, including eligibility requirements and the interim final rule, please visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/csp or visit your local NRCS field office.
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