USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) California State Office reminds California's farmers and ranchers that Jan. 13, 2012, is the ranking period cut-off date for applications for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

Farmers and ranchers interested in CSP need to submit applications to their local NRCS office by the deadline to ensure their applications will be considered for the 2012 ranking period. The program provides numerous conservation benefits including improvement of water and soil quality, wildlife habitat enhancement and adoption of conservation activities that address the effects of climate change.

The program, authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, offers payments to producers who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and who agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship. Eligible lands include cropland, pastureland, rangeland and non-industrial private forestland.

A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if CSP is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, contract obligations and potential payments. It is available from local NRCS offices or online at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/csp.