USDA announced an extension of the deadline for farmers and ranchers to apply for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) until June 14.  Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack originally announced that applications for the fiscal year (FY) 2013 sign up of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) would be due by May 31, but a congressional delay resulted in the extension.

The NRCS will accept slightly more than 12 million acres into the program this year.  In the first four enrollment years for CSP (2009-2012), more than 39,000 farmers and ranchers have enrolled over 50 million acres of farm and ranch land.  Land that is now under five-year, renewable CSP conservation contracts is valued at $680 million a year, a figure that will increase once the additional 12 million acres is enrolled this year.

Interested farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners must complete the brief initial application form by June 14 to compete for a spot in the 2013 enrollment class for the program.  Later in the enrollment process, producers will work with NRCS to complete the Conservation Measurement Tool (CMT) that collects information about conservation on the farm and helps determine whether someone can be enrolled in the program and if so, what the level of conservation payments will be in their CSP contract.  Completion of the CMT is then followed by an on-site visit to the farm to complete the enrollment process.

CSP is an innovative working lands conservation program that rewards farmers and ranchers for the conservation and environmental benefits they produce.  CSP is administered by NRCS and available on a nationwide basis.  CSP offers technical and financial assistance to farmers for adopting and maintaining high standards of resource conservation and environmental stewardship.  Assistance is geared to both the active management of existing conservation systems and to the implementation of new conservation activities on land in agricultural production.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, which helped develop the program and has followed its progress closely, has issued an Information Alert on the 2013 sign-up.  In addition to providing the timeline for the sign-up and enrollment process, the Alert includes basic sign-up information and describes changes made to the program for this sign-up, including new conservation enhancements being offered.  We encourage interested organizations and individuals to post or forward the Information Alert to help get the word out to farmers and ranchers about this pending opportunity.

In addition to information available in the newly released Information Alert, producers will find more detailed information about CSP in NSAC’s Farmers’ Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program, available for free download at http://sustainableagriculture.net/publications/.  The Guide provides clear information on conservation activities eligible for CSP payments to improve conservation performance and environmental benefits.  It also includes step-by-step enrollment guidance, key definitions, and helpful hints.