The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced the start of the 2014 enrollment process for farmers and ranchers who want to participate in the Conservation Stewardship Program.
Producers interested in enrolling in CSP for the 2014 fiscal year must submit their initial applications to NRCS by January 17, 2014.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition helped develop CSP and has followed its progress closely. In conjunction with the USDA announcement, NSAC has issued an Information Alert on the 2014 CSP sign-up.
"The Information Alert is a great place for farmers to begin the CSP enrollment process," said NSAC Policy Specialist Sophia Kruszewski. "It organizes all the basic information in one place and provides producers who decide to dig in deeper with the most relevant links for more information."
In addition to providing the timeline for the sign-up and enrollment process, the Information Alert includes basic sign-up information, describes changes made to the program for the 2014 sign-up, and ranks the conservation practices and enhancements being offered by their environmental benefits score.
CSP offers technical and financial assistance to farmers for adopting and maintaining standards of resource conservation and environmental stewardship. Assistance is geared to both the active management of existing conservation systems and for implementing new conservation activities on land in agricultural production.
In the first five enrollment years for CSP (2009-2013), approximately 46,000 farmers and ranchers have enrolled nearly 60 million acres of farm and ranch land; that land is now under five-year, renewable CSP conservation contracts valued at $804 million a year, NSAC said.
Although a new farm bill, which is pending in a legislative conference committee, would likely reduce funding for future CSP enrollments by at least 10%, it is not expected to have any significant impact on the 2014 CSP enrollment, according to Kruszewski.
"While we hope a new farm bill will be adopted, we continue to oppose cuts to CSP and other conservation programs and hope Congress will keep any cuts to a minimum," said Kruszewski. "But with some cuts possibly coming in future years, it behooves farmers and ranchers who may be considering CSP to apply this year in order to maximize their enrollment chances."
In addition to the newly released Information Alert, producers will find more detailed information about CSP in NSAC's Farmers' Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program also available for free download.
The guide provides information on conservation activities eligible for CSP payments to improve conservation performance and environmental benefits. It also includes step-by-step enrollment guidance and key definitions.