First Sign-Up in 2009 for Conservation Stewardship Program Funding
The deadline for the initial round of NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program funding is September 30th.
The Conservation Stewardship Program is not like any other conservation program. It provides comprehensive conservation assistance to whole farms and working lands to resolve particular resource concerns in a given location. It offers farmers the opportunity to augment the foundation of their good current conservation efforts by earning payments for maintaining them, expanding them, and adding new conservation activities—even while they work their lands for production. CSP is for working farms, built on the belief that we must enhance natural resource and environmental protection at the same time we produce profitable food, fiber and energy.
The first signup in 2009 has been broken down into two steps due to the very short time between the program announcement on August 10 and the end of the 2009 fiscal year on September 30. NRCS will take initial applications by September 30, 2009, based on applicant eligibility and land eligibility, without looking at the specifics of conservation on the land. Then in October, the Conservation Measurement Tool will be filled out by each applicant, followed by ranking, selection, field verification and writing of contracts by NRCS. Up to 12.8 million acres can be enrolled in CSP during this two-step process for 2009 enrollments. In future years, the whole process—applications through signing contracts—will occur within the same fiscal year.
It seems very likely that the short 2009 notice will favor applicants who are currently ready to sign up, reducing or maybe even eliminating competition, as there are likely to be fewer total acres seeking enrollment than the 12.8 million acres available. In future years the opposite is likely to be true. On the other hand, a disadvantage in 2009 is that applicants will not know the exact payment rates per acre they might receive until after selection this first round. In future years, it is likely the payment rate will be known prior to ranking and selection of applications. Of course, farmers have the right to not sign a contract if they discover details that do not suit their operation. The first payments for both the 2009 and 2010 sign-ups will arrive in October 2010.