USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program has helped Iowa farmers achieve conservation goals on farms for nearly two decades, and the state is a national leader of the program in multiple aspects.
In 2018, there were 1,665,087 acres — or 5% of the state’s total ag land — actively enrolled in CSP, according to a fact sheet from the Center for Rural Affairs. It includes information such as number of active CSP contracts, financial assistance allocated and the top conservation practices used in the state.
Administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, CSP provides financial and technical assistance for farmers to maintain production on the land and simultaneously address resource concerns with conservation practices. The program is set up so farmers must demonstrate existing conservation efforts, and then have the opportunity to build on those efforts with new practices and enhancements.
Expanding conservation efforts
“What we found — in both the NRCS data and our own research — is that farmers who use CSP are highly satisfied with the program, and Iowa is leading the nation in various ways in program use,” says Kate Hansen, policy assistant for the center. “The fact sheet is a valuable resource for producers, landowners and policymakers. Congress should not forget about the importance of conservation. Conservation offers resiliency for farming operations, which is sorely needed in these tough economic times.”
Due to lowered funding for the program, the number of CSP contracts for Iowa farmers has decreased in the past five years. “During the federal rulemaking process in 2020, Iowa farmers told us they feel CSP has been a great tool for farmers,” Hansen says. “Farmers have always been good stewards of the land and want to leave the land in good productive shape for the next generation. The CSP program gives farmers the opportunity to do a great job of protecting the land and environment for years to come.”
Helping farmers achieve goals
CSP contracts are five years in length, with the option to renew. When enrolled in a CSP contract, farmers develop a conservation plan with their local NRCS office. The plans include an assortment of practices and enhancements that are then implemented on their farms. These efforts benefit a wide array of resources, including water quality and soil health. The plans help producers achieve conservation goals.
The top five CSP practices in Iowa, ranked by the number of contracts using the practice) are:
- cover crops
- integrated pest management
- crop nutrient management,
- herbaceous weed treatment
- crop residue and tillage management, including no-till
Go online to read the fact sheet at Impacts of the Conservation Stewardship Program in Iowa.