Agricultural producers wanting to enhance current conservation efforts are encouraged to apply for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
Through CSP, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps private landowners build their business while implementing conservation practices that help ensure the sustainability of their operation. NRCS plans to enroll up to 10 million acres in CSP in 2018.
While applications for CSP are accepted year round, applications must be received by March 2, 2018, to be considered for this funding period. Producers statewide and in five special project areas may apply. However, producers may only apply in one CSP funding pool.
The funding opportunities are:
General: Open statewide to all agricultural and forestry producers. Funding is allocated separately for agricultural land, forest land and operations managed by historically underserved producers.
Rice Stewardship Partnership - Sustaining the Future of Rice Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP): This special CSP sign-up is targeted for rice production acreage in Randolph, Clay, Lawrence, Greene, Independence, Craighead, Mississippi, Jackson, Poinsett, Cross, Crittenden, Woodruff, White, Faulkner, Conway, Pope, Saint Francis, Lee, Monroe, Prairie, Lonoke, Pulaski, Phillips, Arkansas, Jefferson, Lincoln, Desha, Drew, Ashley, and Chicot. The RCPP project aims to assist landowners and rice producers that voluntarily implement conservation and management practices that help to improve irrigation water management, control sediment and nutrient runoff, and provide waterfowl habitat on rice production lands
Bayou Meto – Lower Watershed RCPP: Addresses water quality concerns in the Upper Crooked Creek, Steel Bridge Church-Bayou Meto, Bayou Ink-Bayou Meto, Snow Brake-Upper Indian Bayou, and Hall Creek-Bayou Meto watersheds in portions of Lonoke and Pulaski counties.
Tupelo Bayou – Beaverdam Creek Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI): Addresses water quality concerns in the Tupelo Bayou and Beaverdam Creek-Arkansas River watersheds in a portion of Faulkner County.
Upper Cache River Watershed MRBI: Addresses water quality concerns in the Petersburg Ditch-Cache River and Big Gum Lateral-Cache River watersheds in portions of Clay, Greene and Lawrence counties.
Willow Ditch, Podo Creek-Cache River Watersheds MRBI: Addresses water quality concerns in the Willow Ditch and Podo Creek-Cache River watersheds in portions of Craighead, Jackson and Lawrence counties.
Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, ecologically-based pest management, irrigation water management, and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat – all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land. CSP also encourages the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques such as precision agriculture applications, on-site carbon storage and planting for high carbon sequestration rate, and new soil amendments to improve water quality.
Some of these benefits of CSP include:
Improved cattle gains per acre;
Increased crop yields;
Wildlife population improvements; and
Better resilience to weather extremes.
NRCS recently made several updates to the program to help producers better evaluate their conservation options and the benefits to their operations and natural resources. New methods and software for evaluating applications help producers see up front why they are or are not meeting stewardship thresholds, and allow them to pick practices and enhancements that work for their conservation objectives. These tools also enable producers to see potential payment scenarios for conservation early in the process.