USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has a sign-up period for the new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The program was authorized by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill.) CSP is a voluntary program that encourages agricultural and forestry producers to maintain existing conservation activities and adopt additional ones on their operations.
Unlike the Conservation Security Program under the 2002 Farm Bill which was available only in designated watersheds, the new Conservation Stewardship Program is available statewide. Interested land users may submit an application beginning August 10, 2009, at their local USDA Service Center.
Although applications will be accepted on a continuous basis, a ranking cut-off has been scheduled for September 30, 2009. To apply for the new program, potential participants will be encouraged to use a self-screening checklist first to determine whether the new program is suitable for them or their operation. It will be available on NRCS website and at NRCS field offices.
After self-screening, the producer’s current and proposed conservation practices are entered in the conservation measurement tool (CMT). This tool estimates the level of environmental performance to be achieved by a producer implementing and maintaining conservation activity. The conservation performance estimated by the CMT will be used to rank applications.
NRCS field staff also will conduct on-site field verifications of applicants’ information obtained from the CMT. Once the potential participant has been field verified and approved for funding, he or she must develop a conservation stewardship plan.
For information about CSP, including eligibility requirements, producers can visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/new_csp or visit their local NRCS field office. In the alternative, call Deena Wheby, Program Manager, (859)-224-7350 or firstname.lastname@example.org.