File Your CSP by June 11

Published online: May 12, 2010 National Sustainable Ag Coalition
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USDA announced that farmers and ranchers wanting to enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) have until June 11 to get applications filed at their local USDA office. After filing the simple application form, farmers and ranchers will also need to schedule an appointment to complete the CSP Conservation Management Tool (CMT), a set of questions related to their conservation baseline and scheduled improvements. After all applicants who file the short application form by June 11 have completed the CMT, USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) will rank the proposals to determine the best offers for enrollment during this 2010 sign-up. Ranking, and then field visits and contract signing, will occur over the summer months, with the goal of enrolling 12.8 million acres of crop, pasture, range, and private non-industrial forest lands. Combined with the 12.8 million acres enrolled in the 2009 sign-up, CSP enrollment will stand at 25.6 million acres by this fall. The first CSP payments for both the 2009 and 2010 enrollees will occur in October 2010. Today's USDA announcement comes in advance of the issuance of the final rule for the CSP. The program operated under an interim final rule in 2009. Important changes to the rule are expected, so therefore farmers will be granted an opportunity to re-assess whether to keep their application pending once the final rule is issued. At the current time, USDA expects the final rule to be issued prior to the June 11 application cut-off point, though guessing the timing of federal rulemakings is always somewhat precarious. A revised CMT will also be issued in the very near future. Also expected soon is a report on the 2009 sign-up, which is just now being finalized with the signing of the last few contracts. NSAC issued a much-used Farmers Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program available here for the 2009 enrollment period. The handy guidebook will be revised and re-issued as soon as USDA issues the revised 2010 CMT and the final rule for the program. The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is a comprehensive working lands conservation program established by the 2008 Farm Bill to provide technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers to actively manage and maintain existing conservation systems and to implement additional conservation activities on land in agricultural production. CSP targets funding to:  Address particular resources of concern in a given watershed, region, or state  Assist farmers and ranchers to improve soil, water, and air quality  Provide increased biodiversity and wildlife and pollinator habitat  Sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change  Conserve water and energy. The 2008 Farm Bill authorizes a new nationwide, continuous sign-up for CSP which means farmers and ranchers anywhere in the country will be able to apply for the CSP any year and at any time of the year. Periodically during the year, NRCS will rank applications and then develop contracts with those farmers and ranchers with the highest rankings until funding for that ranking period is completely allocated. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities.