Natural Resources Conservation Service officials in all states are encouraging producers interested in Conservation Stewardship Program funding to apply before January 13. All applications received by that date will be considered for funding in the first ranking period of 2012.
CSP has been helpful in Delaware, for example. "CSP continues to be a very effective program for private landowners working to further their conservation and management goals," explains Russell Morgan, Delaware NRCS State Conservationist. "In the past two years, 34 applicants enrolled in CSP and received financial and technical assistance to implement conservation on nearly 23,000 acres across Delaware."
CSP provides technical and financial assistance to producers to address resource concerns on a comprehensive scale by implementing additional conservation activities; and improving, maintaining, and managing existing conservation activities. Participants are paid for conservation performance-- the higher the stewardship level, the higher their payment.
Approved conservation activities vary by state. But in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, they generally include planting cover crops, plant tissue testing, using deep rooted crops for soil compaction, extending existing filter strips, and others that benefit water and soil quality, and wildlife habitat. Eligible lands include cropland, pastureland, and nonindustrial private forest land.
Payments to landowners vary on a case-by-case basis. But average CSP payments to Delaware landowners in 2010 and 2011 were between $20 and $25 per acre.
Landowners working to improve their operation can receive up to $40,000 a year in financial assistance for five years. Historically underserved groups – limited resource, beginning, and socially disadvantaged farmers – are ranked in a separate funding pool to increase CSP participation. All HU participants are guaranteed a minimum contract payment of $1,000 annually. There's no minimum acreage requirement to apply.
A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help potential applicants determine if CSP is suitable for their operation. It highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, contract obligations, and potential payments. It's available from local NRCS offices, on your state NRCS website or at www.de.nrcs.usda.gov .
As part of the CSP application process, applicants work with NRCS field personnel to determine their conservation performance. Conservation performance will be used to determine eligibility, ranking, and payments. Contact your local USDA Service Center for details.