CSP helps producers to improve their profitability and sustainability by protecting and enhancing soil health, water quality, and wildlife habitat across millions of acres of agricultural land. (USDA NRCS South Dakota, Flickr/Creative Commons)
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced that farmers and ranchers have until May 10, 2019 to submit an initial FY 2019 application for the nation’s largest working lands program, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Over 70 million acres across the country are currently enrolled in CSP contracts, and this enrollment period presents an opportunity for even more farmers to advance whole-farm conservation on their lands. CSP helps producers to improve their profitability and sustainability by protecting and enhancing soil health, water quality, and wildlife habitat across millions of acres of agricultural land.
The 2019 sign-up is the first enrollment period following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, during which attempts were made to eliminate the program entirely. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) was among many farm advocates that fought for the preservation of CSP in the farm bill; NSAC also helped to secure several significant policy improvements to the program that further incentivize the most impactful conservation activities within CSP. NSAC urges all eligible farmers and ranchers to take advantage of this opportunity and to apply for CSP before the May 10 deadline.
“With less than a month until the enrollment deadline, we urge farmers to take the first step to sign-up for the Conservation Stewardship Program in 2019,” said Alyssa Charney, NSAC Senior Policy Specialist. “CSP is the only conservation program that provides support for comprehensively addressing natural resources across an entire operation. With farmers and ranchers up against increasing pressures from a changing climate and the downturn in the farm economy, CSP offers opportunity to build both profitability and sustainability.”
The 2018 Farm Bill provided NRCS with authority to implement conservation programs under the rules of the last farm bill for this enrollment period, which will allow NRCS to keep FY 2019 enrollments on schedule while they work through any policy and/or rule changes made in the farm bill. Practically, this means that the FY 2019 CSP up will look very similar to last year’s enrollment process and program structure. Structural differences, including total funding available and the renewals process, will be changed immediately. Increases to payment rates for cover crops and resource conserving crop rotations will also go into immediate effect.
“NSAC applauds NRCS for quickly moving forward with the farm bill updates to increase payments for advanced conservation activities like cover cropping and conserving crop rotations,” said Charney. “Providing increased payments for these high-impact activities will result in significant benefits for soil health and water quality on land in agricultural production by properly incentivizing farmers for advanced efforts. We urge farmers to take advantage of this new offering through CSP before the May deadline.”
To help farmers interested in applying CSP to more easily navigate the program and enrollment process, NSAC has released an updated version of their CSP Information Alert. The Information Alert also includes information about the Grassland Conservation Initiative, updated renewals process, and transition option for participants with expiring contracts. More detailed information and analysis will be available on the NSAC blog next week.
–National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)