Farmers’ Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has released the latest version of its free Farmers’ Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The guide provides farmers and ranchers looking to enroll in the CSP program, or renew CSP contracts, with helpful, comprehensive, and accurate information about the program.
CSP pays farmers for both new and ongoing conservation practices. It provides farmers and ranchers with five-year, renewable financial assistance contracts for implementing and maintaining conservation measures across their entire operation as they work to help solve regional resource concerns.
NSAC periodically updates the Farmers’ Guide to ensure up-to date information is available. The Guide can help you understand the steps involved in applying for and using CSP, learn more about the conservation activities CSP can help you implement, understand how your farm will be ranked, understand the way CSP payments work, and prepare for the reporting requirements you will need to meet once enrolled. Among the key topic headings are eligibility, enrollment, ranking, and payments.
All private agricultural land is eligible for CSP, including cropland, pastureland, rangeland, land used for agro-forestry, and non-industrial forest land.
Because CSP is a competitive program, there are some steps you must take and metrics you must meet so NRCS can score your farm and determine if it is eligible for CSP. This includes filling out some online forms.
Depending on where your farm is located, you will be ranked higher if you address key priority resource concerns in your region. Examples of priority resource concerns include wind and water erosion, pest pressure, fire management, and soil quality, among others.
If NRCS determines that your farm is eligible for CSP, you will then work with your NRCS representative to develop a CSP contract for your farm that includes the list of conservation enhancements you have chosen to implement during the five-year contract term.
There are existing activity payments that support the active management and maintenance of ongoing conservation activities. There are also additional activity payments, to fund the adoption of conservation practices, enhancements, and bundles, supplemental payments for high priority practices, and payments for those who develop comprehensive conservation plans.
A farmer’s annual CSP payment will consist of at least two and possibly as many as four payments. The annual payment total cannot be less than $1,500, and the the annual payment total generally cannot exceed $40,000, considering the payment limit for five-year contracts is $200,000.