The Natural Resources Conservation Service's Conservation Stewardship Program will provide $175 million in funding for up to 12.6 million additional acres of enrollment, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday.
The CSP offers producers payments in return for maintaining a high level of conservation on their land and who agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship. Improvements to meet requirements can include intensive rotational grazing, intercropping and wildlife friendly fencing.
"It's about conservation activities on the entire operation focusing on multiple resource concerns," Vilsack explained.
Though applications are accepted all year, those interested in CSP should submit applications to their local NRCS office by May 31 to be eligible for this year's funding.
This year's enrollment was delayed for six months while Congress negotiated and passed the continuing resolution to fund government programs through the end of this fiscal year, hence this year's later-than-normal due date.
Last year, producers enrolled an additional 12.1 million acres in CSP, bringing the total number of acres to more than 50 million. NRCS staff said more enrollment is expected this year due to extreme weather events in 2012 and continuing this spring.
"This is a great opportunity for producers to enhance and build upon the conservation that they are doing on their land," said National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Policy Associate, Greg Fogel. "However, we are operating under an extremely tight deadline, so farmers and ranchers must act quickly to complete their initial application form."
NSAC was involved in the development of the program, which is said is geared to both the active management of existing conservation systems and to the implementation of new conservation activities.
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.
News source: USDA, NSAC