Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that $150 million in funding is available for agricultural producers through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), USDA’s largest conservation program that helps producers voluntarily improve the health and productivity of private and tribal working lands. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to add an estimated 10 million acres to the rolls of CSP during fiscal year 2016.
“The Conservation Stewardship Program is one of our most popular programs with producers because it results in real change on the ground by boosting soil and air quality, conserving clean water and enhancing wildlife habitat,” Vilsack said.
NRCS accepts applications for CSP throughout the year, but producers should submit applications by March 31, 2016, to local USDA-NRCS office to ensure they are considered for enrollment in 2016.
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, 2016.
CSP is also available to Texas producers as an additional opportunity to participate in landscape-level conservation efforts including the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative, Longleaf Pine Initiative and Ogallala Aquifer Initiative.
Texas NRCS State Conservationist Salvador Salinas said that Texas is once again able to offer CSP on three of the four approved national landscape initiative areas. Landowners across these initiative areas will further enhance the habitat of these valuable working lands through additional conservation enhancement efforts. NRCS and landowner commitments to CSP remain strong with more than 6.3 million acres currently enrolled in the program in Texas.
Funding is available for more than 100 kinds of conservation 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.
To learn about CSP and other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or your local USDA-NRCS Service Center.