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Conservation Stewardship Program

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Cutoff March 31 for CSP Applications, Renewals

NRCS accepts applications for CSP throughout the year, but agricultural producers should submit applications by March 31 to USDA service centers to ensure they are considered for enrollment in 2016.

Participants with existing CSP contracts that will expire on Dec.31, 2016 have the option to renew their contracts for an additional five years if they agree to adopt additional activities to achieve higher levels of conservation on their lands. Applications to renew are also due by March 31.

Program Description

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) presents a significant shift in how the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides conservation program payments. CSP participants will receive an annual land use payment for operation-level environmental benefits they produce. Under CSP, participants are paid for conservation performance: the higher the operational performance, the higher their payment.

CSP is a voluntary conservation program that encourages producers to address resource concerns in a comprehensive manner by:

  • Undertaking additional conservation activities; and
  • Improving, maintaining, and managing existing conservation activities.

CSP is available on Tribal and private agricultural lands and non-industrial private forest land in all 50 States and the Caribbean and Pacific Islands Areas. The program provides equitable access to all producers, regardless of operation size, crops produced, or geographic location. The Secretary of Agriculture has delegated administrative authority for CSP to the NRCS Chief.

How CSP Works

CSP encourages land stewards to improve their conservation performance by installing and adopting additional activities, and improving, maintaining, and managing existing activities on agricultural land and nonindustrial private forest land.  NRCS accepts applications for CSP at local service centers, Nationwide, on a continuous basis.

The State Conservationist, in consultation with the State Technical Committee and local work groups, will focus program impacts on natural resources that are of specific concern for a State, or specific geographic areas within a State. Applications will be evaluated relative to other applications addressing similar priority resource concerns to facilitate a competitive ranking process among applicants within a State who face similar resource challenges.

The entire operation must be enrolled and must include all eligible land operated substantially separate that will be under the applicant's control for the term of the proposed contract.

CSP offers participants two possible types of payments:

  • Annual payment for installing and adopting additional activities, and improving, maintaining, and managing existing activities
  • Supplemental payment for the adoption of resource-conserving crop rotations

Benefits

Through CSP, participants take additional steps to improve  resource condition including soil quality,  water quality, water quantity, air quality, and habitat quality, as well as energy.

CSP provides two types of payments through five-year contracts: annual payments for installing new conservation activities and maintaining existing practices; and supplemental payments for adopting a resource-conserving crop rotation. Producers may be able to renew a contract if they have successfully fulfilled the initial contract and agree to achieve additional conservation objectives. Payments are made soon as practical after October 1 of each fiscal year for contract activities installed and maintained in the previous year.

Eligibility

Eligible lands include private and Tribal agricultural lands, cropland, grassland, pastureland, rangeland and nonindustrial private forest land.   CSP is available to all producers, regardless of operation size or type of crops produced, in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Caribbean and Pacific Island areas. Applicants may include individuals, legal entities, joint operations or Indian tribes that meet the stewardship threshold for at least two priority resource concerns when they apply. They must also agree to meet or exceed the stewardship threshold for at least one additional priority resource concern by the end of the contract.
 
Producers must have effective control of the land for the term of the proposed contract. Contracts include all eligible land in the agricultural operation.

Additional restrictions and program requirements may apply.

Eligible Lands

Through CSP, NRCS will provide financial and technical assistance to eligible producers to conserve and enhance soil, water, air, and related natural resources on their land.

  • Crop
  • Pasture
  • Range
  • Nonindustrial Private Forest
  • Agricultural Land Under the Jurisdiction of an Native American Tribe or Tribal Nation
  • And other Private Agricultural Land (including Cropped Woodland, Marshes, and Agricultural Land used for the Production of Livestock) on which Resource Concerns Related to Agricultural Production Could be Addressed.

Is CSP Right For Me?

You can play a large role in determining whether or not CSP is right for you. Here's how:

2016 Conservation Stewardship Self-Screening Checklist

Download and fill out the 2016 Conservation Stewardship Self-Screening Checklist (PDF, 178KB)
You don't have to turn it in to NRCS; it's there to help you determine for CSP is right for you. If you have questions regarding the Checklist, please contact your local NRCS office.

How to Apply

Visit your local USDA Service Center visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted.

Download NRCS conservation program application (PDF, 267KB)

FY 2016 Ranking Period One Program Documents

CSP Application

Conservation Program Application NRCS-CPA-1200 (PDF, 104KB)

Note: FY2016 Job sheets and payment rates remain the same as FY2015.

2016 Ranking Period One Enhancement Activity Job Sheets

An "enhancement" is a conservation activity used to treat natural resources and improve conservation performance. Enhancements are designed to maintain or exceed the quality criteria, or stewardship level, for the resource concern. Enhancements tied directly to conservation practices standards exceed the minimum treatment requirements of the standard to address additional criteria or considerations. Conservation practice standards and quality criteria for resource concerns can be found in sections II and III of the Field Office Technical Guide (eFOTG).

All Enhancements |   Air Quality  | Animal | Bundles | Energy | Plant | Soil Erosion and Soil Quality | Water Quality | Water Quantity | Supplemental Payment Activity 

2016 Payment for Performance Payment Rates

The 2016 Payment for Performance payment rates  are available as HTML.

Activity List

Download and look over the Conservation Program Activity List  to identify new activities you may be interested in to install or adopt

  • "Enhancement" means a type of conservation activity used to treat natural resources and greatly improve conservation performance.
  • Enhancements are installed at a level of management intensity which exceeds the sustainable level for a given resource concern.
  • Enhancements directly related to a practice standard are applied in a manner that exceeds the minimum treatment requirements of the standard.

Vermont Activity List

Vermont Supplemental Information

Operations Baseline Data Questions

To initiate the use of the Conservation Measurement Tool (CMT) during the CSP application process, you'll work with NRCS field personnel to define your Operation Baseline Data. The CMT will use this data, in part, to determine the conservation performance for existing and additional conservation activities.

The documents below are copies of the Operation Baseline Data questions, grouped by land use.  You can download and review the questions, and begin drafting responses to start the process before you meet with NRCS staff.

Conservation Measurement Tool Inventory  (CMT) Questions

As part of the CSP application process, you'll  work with NRCS field personnel to complete your resource inventory using a Conservation Measurement Tool (CMT). The CMT determines the conservation performance for existing and additional conservation activities.
The documents below are copies of the resource inventory questions, grouped by land use.  You can download and review the questions, and begin drafting responses to start resource inventory process before you complete the CMT in your local NRCS office.

Conservation Measurement Tool (CMT) Scoring Process

NRCS will use the CMT to evaluate CSP applications through a point-based system to estimate environmental benefits. The CMT evaluates existing and proposed new activities to calculate conservation performance points which will be used for ranking and payment purposes.

Conservation performance points are programmed in the CMT, along with all controls, filters, and calculations. A scientific validation of CMT is underway and future modifications to these points may be needed.

Organic Crosswalk

The 2008 Farm Bill recognized the growing interest and support of organic agriculture across the country and required the development of a transparent means by which producers may initiate organic certification while participating in a CSP contract. "The Conservation Stewardship Program's Contribution to Organic Transitioning - The Organic Crosswalk", provides an explanation of how CSP enhancements can be used to assist producers in meeting individual National Organic Program (NOP) rules while going through the transitioning period.

The Organic Crosswalk  (PDF, 62KB)

More Information

National CSP Web Page

CSP Fact Sheet (PDF, 618KB)

To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted

Summary of changes to CSP in the Interim Final Rule

 

Detailed Information

To see more detailed information about CSP, visit the CSP program homepage.

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CSP Resource Conserving Crops

With advise from State Technical Committee Members, each State has created a list of resource conserving crops that applicants can incorporate into their cropland acres if they are eligible for, and elect to adopt the Resource Conserving Crop Rotation Enhancement.

Vermont Resource Conserving Crops

1. Perennial grass (not exclusive):
- timothy
- brome
- orchard grass
2. A legume grown for use as a forage, seed for planting, or green manure (not exclusive):
- red clover
- hairy vetch
- field peas
- alfalfa
- soybean
3. A legume-grass mixture (not exclusive):
- perennial grass and red clover
- perennial grass and alfalfa
- rye and hairy vetch
4. A small grain grown in combination with a grass or legume, whether interseeded or planted in rotation (not exclusive):
- oats and field peas crop followed by a perennial grass (see #1 above). The small grain residue shall not be harvested or grazed.
- rye and hairy vetch winter cover crop followed by alfalfa or other legume (see #2 above). The cover crop shall not be harvested or grazed
- oats and field peas followed by alfalfa and a perennial grass. The small grain residue shall not be harvested or grazed.
- oats or triticale or rye or wheat or barley or millet in rotation with a perennial grass. The small grain shall not be harvested or grazed.
- oats or triticale or rye or wheat or barley or millet in rotation with alfalfa or other legume. The small grain residue shall not be harvested or grazed.
- oats or triticale or rye or wheat or barley or millet in rotation with alfalfa or other legume and perennial grass. The small grain residue shall not be harvested or grazed.

Vermont IMPROVED Resource Conserving Crop Rotations

 

 

How to Apply

Visit your local USDA Service Center, or visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted

More Information

Vermont CSP Fact Sheet (PDF, 618KB)

National CSP Fact Sheet

 

 

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Vermont NRCS Farm Bill Homepage