USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Oklahoma plans to add an estimated 450,000 more acres to the rolls of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) during fiscal year 2016. NRCS Oklahoma State Conservationist Gary O’Neill encourages farmers, ranchers and landowners to submit applications by March 31 to their local USDA service center to ensure they are considered for enrollment in 2016.
CSP is USDA’s largest conservation program that helps producers voluntarily improve the health and productivity of private and Tribal working lands through more than 100 different land enhancements.
Participants with existing CSP contracts that will expire on Dec.31, 2016 have the option to renew their contracts for an additional five years if they agree to adopt additional activities to achieve higher levels of conservation on their lands. Applications to renew are also due by March 31.
NRCS also makes CSP available to producers as an additional opportunity to participate in regional landscape-level conservation efforts including the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative and Ogallala Aquifer Initiative.
Funding is available for more than 100 kinds of enhancements nationwide to help participants:
- Improve soil quality through use of cover crops, conservation crop rotations and other activities that increase soil productivity.
- Use water wisely and improve water quality through enhancements such as more efficient irrigation systems and weather monitoring.
- Restore habitat for wildlife and pollinators such as the lesser prairie-chicken and monarch butterfly through the use of better grazing systems and improved plant management.
A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is compatible with their operation. As part of the application process, applicants will work with NRCS field personnel to complete a resource inventory of their land to determine the conservation performance for existing and new conservation activities. The applicant’s conservation performance will be used to determine eligibility, ranking and payments.
For more on technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.
For signup information, see the contact information listed on the Kerr Center’s online events calendar.