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CSP sign-up deadline is March 31

By Staff | Mar 21, 2016

AMES (PFI) – Practical Farmers of Iowa on Feb. 26 urged farmers interested in the Conservation Stewardship Program to submit the initial 11-question application to their local U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service office by March 31 if they wish to be considered for the 2016 fiscal year.

The March 31 deadline applies to farmers submitting new applications, as well as those who wish to renew existing contracts that first started in 2012, which are set to expire this year.

In Iowa, 540 contracts – comprising more than 279,800 acres – will expire if not renewed by March 31, making this sign-up period a prime opportunity for farmers to make strides in stewarding Iowa’s soil, water, wildlife habitat and other natural resources – and meeting goals outlined in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

The Conservation Stewardship Program is administered by NRCS, and works by providing financial and technical support to farmers and ranchers who adopt and expand conservation practices, such as cover crops, diversified crop rotations, managed rotational grazing and transitioning to organic systems.

For the 2016 sign-up period, NRCS has increased the minimum annual contract payment to $1,500, an increase of $500 over the previous $1,000 annual minimum in an effort to make CSP financially viable for smaller or diversified operations.

Before this change, the previous annual minimum was only available to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, whereas the new $1,500 annual minimum is now available to all farmers.

Hence the new range for CSP payments per farm per year is between $1,500 and $40,000.

This year’s sign-up deadline is also significant because a major program overhaul is scheduled for 2017. In order for farmers to enroll in CSP under its existing structure and program requirements, they must apply by the March 31 deadline.

While applicants can sign up for the Conservation Stewardship Program anytime during the year, those who miss the March 31 deadline will not be considered until 2017.

More detailed guidance on CSP and the enrollment process is available in two publications by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

The first, “CSP Information Alert,” offers step-by-step sign-up and enrollment details, including a complete list of all eligible conservation practices.

The second, “Farmers’ Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program,” offers more detailed guidance and helpful hints for accessing the program.

Both documents are available for free on the NSAC website at sustainableagriculture.net/publications.

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