Wallaces Farmer

USDA invests $150 million nationwide for 2016 Conservation Stewardship Program to help improve working lands.

February 5, 2016

3 Min Read

 FAQ: USDA has announced the 2016 sign-up period for the  Conservation Stewardship Program.  I’m told I have until March 31 to complete the initial CSP application. Also, while applicants can  sign up for CSP anytime throughout the year, those who miss the March 31 deadline will not be  considered until 2017. Is this true?

 Answer: USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced February 4 that it is  accepting applications at local offices for newly available funding through the Conservation  Stewardship Program (CSP), USDA’s largest conservation program that helps farmers voluntarily  improve conservation efforts on private working lands.


 NRCS accepts applications for CSP throughout the year, but producers should submit applications by  March 31 to their local USDA Service Center to ensure they are considered for enrollment in 2016.  Current CSP participants with expiring contracts on Dec. 31 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 land. Renewal applications are also due March 31.

Earn higher payments for higher performance
The program emphasizes conservation performance; producers earn higher payments for higher  performance. Through CSP, producers  install conservation enhancements to make positive changes in  soil health, soil erosion, water quality, water quantity, air  quality, plant resources, animal resources and  energy. Last year, Iowa NRCS obligated $11.6 million through 1,008 contracts covering  578,411 acres.

 Southeast Iowa dairy farmer David Petersen was awarded a CSP contract for his efforts as a  successful land steward. “USDA has been a partner with us from day one,” says Petersen. “I consider  myself a poster child for what can happen when you combine good public policy and funding with  good  private initiative.”

 Through CSP, Petersen performed such conservation activities as an on-farm energy audit,  incorporating cover crop mixes on his cropland, and using nitrogen provided from animal manure to  supply 100% of the corn crop’s nutrient needs.

CSP supports Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy
CSP also supports the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy through various conservation activities. The  Iowa strategy includes  practices designed to reduce nutrient loads from nonpoint sources such  as farm  fields. Some popular CSP nutrient reduction enhancements used by Iowa farmers include:

•Cover crops to scavenge residual nitrogen;
•Precision application technology to apply nutrients;
•Split nitrogen application (50% after crop emergence or pasture green-up);
•Plant tissue tests and analysis to improve nitrogen management.

 A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is suitable for  their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements,  stewardship threshold requirements and payment types. Learn more about CSP by visiting the Iowa  NRCS website or your local NRCS field office.

 NOTE: This year’s sign-up deadline carries particular significance, as a major program overhaul is  scheduled for 2017. In order for producers to enroll in CSP under its existing structure, ranking  process, and current conservation activities, they must apply by the March 31 deadline.

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