During Thursday's Rural Summit Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the final regulations governing the Conservation Stewardship Program have been published - and the enrollment period for the second year of the program will now be closing on June 25. Vilsack says voluntary conservation practices by private landowners and producers are an essential part of USDA's effort to improve soil and water quality. He says broad and diverse participation in the CSP program will provide producers with many benefits such as enhancing wildlife habitat and helping to mitigate the impact of climate change.
The final rule keeps the broad features of the interim final rule. CSP will pay participants for conservation performance ;producers will get credit for existing conservation measures as well as new measures they agree to add; and CSP is available in all 50 states, D.C. and the Pacific and Caribbean areas.
Some changes have been made to the program rules due to comments received from partners and the public during the 90-day comment period. Changes include a higher payment rate for additional conservation performance ; a higher payment limit; pastured cropland is added as a new designation; and a revised definition of resource-conserving crop rotation. Other changes give producers more flexibility in establishing eligibility to apply for CSP and in certifying their control of the land.
CSP is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and is available to all producers. USDA encourages potential applicants to use the CSP self-screening checklist to determine if CSP fits their operation and to apply before June 25. Information can be found at www.nrcs.usda.gov.