DES MOINES -- Only a few days remain in the current Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) signup period ending on June 25.
"Time is running out to submit your CSP application for funding consideration this fiscal year," said State Conservationist Rich Sims, with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Iowa.
Authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, CSP is a voluntary program that offers payments to producers who exercise good land stewardship and want to improve their conservation performance. CSP is administered by the NRCS, and is available to all producers regardless of operation size, crops produced, or geographic location.
This new version of CSP is in its second year. A number of important changes in the program rules are featured:
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.
For more information about CSP, visit the CSP Web page at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_csp/csp.h... or contact your local NRCS field office.