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Conservation Stewardship Program Sign Up Announced

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan has announced the first farmer sign up period for the new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The CSP will make payments to farmers for maintaining existing conservation practices and for adopting additional practices on cropland, grassland, improved pasture, rangeland, non-industrial private forestland and tribal lands. Payment will also be made for adopting resource conserving crop rotations.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan has announced the first farmer sign up period for the new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).   The CSP will make payments to farmers for maintaining existing conservation practices and for adopting additional practices on cropland, grassland, improved pasture, rangeland, non-industrial private forestland and tribal lands.  Payment will also be made for adopting resource conserving crop rotations.

Farmers can submit applications at their local Natural Resource Conservation District offices between August 10th and September 30th to be considered for this 12.8 million acre sign up.  Enrollment for the new CSP is nationwide and the program is not limited to certain watersheds.      

Application will be a two step process

Step One:  Farmers must submit a short, basic application to NRCS by September 30th.  NRCS has developed a  self screening tool to help farmers evaluate their eligibility and suitability for the program.
Step Two:  Farmers who submit a basic application will then work with NRCS staff on a more comprehensive assessment of the farm's existing conservation baseline and the proposed additional practices and crop rotations for the 2010 through 2014 crop years.  NRCS will use a new software system called the Conservation Measurement Tool (CMT) to assign points by which all applications will be ranked.  Farmers who submit the basic application to participate may then work with NRCS to complete the CMT at any time between mid-September and the end of October.
Conservation Activities

NRCS has provided a list of practices and enhancements  that are considered by the CMT in assigning points for newly adopted conservation activities.  Many of the same activities are also reflected in the baseline section of the CMT used to measure existing conservation on the farm today.

CSP targets practices that conserve or improve soil, water, air, energy, biodiversity, and wildlife habitat.  Practices that sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gasses are also rewarded. Among the over 70 activities included are continuous cover cropping, resource-conserving crop rotation, management intensive rotational grazing, advanced IPM, organic cropping and livestock systems, prairie restoration, pollinator habitat, and a variety of nutrient management and water and energy conservation techniques.

State Resource Concerns

States pick between three and five priority resource concerns for their state or for regions within the state such as water quality. CSP applicants must demonstrate that they already meet a minimum sustainability level called the "stewardship threshold" for at least one priority resource concern and that they will address at least one additional resource concern to the stewardship threshold level during the 5-year contract period.  Applications that address more resource concerns or that treat them more thoroughly will be ranked more favorably by the CMT and receive higher payments.  To find out your state's priority resource of concern contact your NRCS state office.

Payment Rates

CSP payments are a reflection of land use type (crop, pasture, range, etc.) and environmental ranking points.  Overall CSP payment rates are expected to average $18 per acre nationwide.  The rate, however, will vary by land type and the details and total environmental benefits of each contract.  Payments will be made in the fall of each year beginning in 2010.  Payments are limited to no more than $40,000 per farm per year.

Sign up Assistance
NSAC members, the National Center for Appropriate Technology and the Center for Rural Affairs are providing sign up assistance to producers.    The Center for Rural Affairs is offering a Farm Bill Helpline to answer questions and provide assistance on the CSP and other conservation programs.  Call (402) 687-2100 and ask for the Helpline.   The National Center for Appropriate Technology is also offering phone assistance. Call 1-800 346-9140 (English) or  1-800-411-3222 (Spanish).  A wealth of information will also be posted by NCAT on theAppropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) website.

Further Information and Assistance
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
110 Maryland Avenue NE Washington, D.C. 20002
Phone: (202) 547-5754 Fax: (202) 547-1837
info@sustainableagriculture.net

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