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CSP increases payment rates and limits, signup extended

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) now offers higher payment limits for new conservation activities, higher payment limits for joint operations, and the addition of pasture cropland as a new designation with a higher payment than pastureland.

These changes, and others, are included in the final recently published CSP regulations, said (Renee Braun), District Conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Cherokee County.

Following is a complete list of 2010 CSP changes:

*Higher payment rate for additional conservation performance. USDA is implementing a split payment structure, with one payment rate for existing conservation activities and a higher payment rate for new activities. This is expected to encourage producers to apply more new activities and thereby generate greater environmental benefits.
*Higher payment limit. The total contract limitation for joint operations is increased from $200,000 to $400,000, with annual payment limits increased from $40,000 to $80,000 to fairly compensate joint operations that produce environmental benefit levels needed to earn the payments.
*New minimum payment. To directly encourage participation by small-scale, historically underserved producers, the rule establishes a minimum payment of $1,000.
*Pastured cropland. "Pastured cropland" is added as a new designation with a higher payment than "pastureland" because of the greater income foregone by producers who maintain a grass-based livestock production system on land suitable for cropping.
*Enhancements. Some conservation enhancements work better when implemented as a system and under the new rule are offered as enhancement "bundles." Participants who implement such comprehensive bundles get higher rankings and higher payments.
*Resource-conserving crop rotation. In response to extensive public comment, the definition of "resource-conserving crop rotation" is revised to require the use of grass and/or legumes. Since resource-conserving crops receive supplemental payments under CSP, the rule change ensures that the crops provide a sufficient level of environmental benefit.

Other changes in the regulation give producers greater flexibility in establishing their eligibility to apply for CSP and in certifying their control of the land. Eligible lands include cropland, pastureland, non-industrial private forest land, and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe.

The USDA also extended the enrollment period for CSP two weeks, to June 25. "Local producers are still encouraged to come in as soon as possible, despite the extended signup," said (Renee Braun) .

For more information about CSP, visit the CSP Web page at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_csp/csp.h....



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