Apply by March 31 to be considered for CSP in 2016

Apply by March 31 to be considered for CSP in 2016

NRCS plans to add an estimated 10 million acres to the Conservation Stewardship Program in fiscal year 2016.

Producers interested in enrolling in the Conservation Stewardship Program for 2016 should apply by March 31 at their USDA service centers to ensure they are considered for enrollment.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Feb. 4 that $150 million in funding is available for the CSP and that USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service plans to add an estimated 10 million acres to the program during fiscal 2016.

Owners of cropland, grassland, pastureland and rangeland are eligible for the Conservation Stewardship Program. (Photo: Rasica/Thinkstock)

"With this investment, we'll be able to build on the already record number of acres enrolled in USDA's conservation programs, enabling producers to achieve higher levels of conservation and adopt new and emerging conservation technologies on farms, ranches and forests,” Vilsack said.

Participants with existing CSP contracts that will expire on Dec. 31, 2016 have the option to renew their contracts for an additional five years if they agree to adopt additional activities to achieve higher levels of conservation on their lands. Applications to renew are also due by March 31.

NRCS also makes CSP available to producers as an additional opportunity to participate in regional landscape-level conservation efforts including the Sage Grouse Initiative, Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative, Longleaf Pine Initiative and Ogallala Aquifer Initiative.

Funding is available for more than 100 kinds of enhancements nationwide to help participants:

-Improve soil quality through use of cover crops, conservation crop rotations and other activities that increase soil productivity.

-Use water wisely and improve water quality through enhancements such as more efficient irrigation systems and weather monitoring.

-Restore habitat for wildlife and pollinators such as the greater sage-grouse, lesser prairie-chicken and monarch butterfly through the use of better grazing systems and improved plant management.

A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is compatible with their operation. As part of the application process, applicants will work with NRCS field personnel to complete a resource inventory of their land to determine the conservation performance for existing and new conservation activities. The applicant's conservation performance will be used to determine eligibility, ranking and payments.

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