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Farmers Have Until May 5th to Renew CSP Contracts

The map above highlights the regional breakdown of expiring contracts. The dark green portions show the areas with the highest concentrations of CSP acres are set to expire if not renewed by May 5. For more insight on the exact number of acres and contracts set to expire in each state, click here.

The map above highlights the regional breakdown of expiring contracts. The dark green portions show the areas with the highest concentrations of CSP acres are set to expire if not renewed by May 5. For more insight on the exact number of acres and contracts set to expire in each state, click here.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is now accepting applications to re-enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) through May 5, 2017. This renewal option is specifically for farmers and ranchers who enrolled in CSP initially in 2013.

CSP is a comprehensive working lands conservation program that provides technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers to actively manage and maintain existing conservation systems and to implement additional conservation activities on land in production. Through CSP, participants take steps to improve soil, water, air, and habitat quality, and can also address water quantity and energy conservation issues.

CSP contracts last for five years, at which time they are eligible for renewal. There are approximately 7,000 farmers and ranchers with CSP contracts that will expire this year, totaling over 9.5 million acres that need to be re-enrolled to preserve and expand upon critical environmental benefits. In the Southern SAWG region, there are 2,489 contracts expiring, totaling 2,800,613 acres.

CSP Acres and Contracts Set to Expire
in the South on December 31, 2017
State
Acres
Contracts
Alabama
23,142
49
Arkansas
544,196
530
Florida
43,960
32
Georgia
115,820
270
Kentucky
28,775
71
Louisiana
132,204
163
Mississippi
137,599
142
North Carolina
18,367
31
Oklahoma
762,443
716
South Carolina
31,125
71
Tennessee
39,851
133
Texas
899,768
224
Virginia
23,363
57
 
Totals
2,800,613
2,489

It Pays to Renew

It is optional to renew an expiring contract, and participants who do not re-enroll can always re-apply and compete for funding in future annual CSP signups. However, there is significant benefit to renewing now: the process for renewing is non-competitive and much simpler than re-applying through the competitive process later, and participants will avoid any gaps in their CSP payments that would otherwise occur.

NRCS has already mailed letters to all CSP participants with contracts that are set to expire this year.  The producer must then sign up for the renewal offer by May 5, 2017. Local NRCS offices will then follow up with the producer to discuss renewal criteria and new conservation options; the producer then can decide whether to sign up for another five-year contract.

Renewal Criteria

Participants will need to meet additional renewal criteria. Under the terms of the 2014 Farm Bill, CSP contract holders can renew their contracts provided: they have met the terms of their initial contract; agree to adopt and continue to integrate conservation activities across the entire operation; and agree to either meet the stewardship threshold of at least two additional priority resource concerns or exceed the stewardship threshold of at least two existing priority resource concerns by the end of the renewed contract period.

For more information on the program and the process for signing up, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has released two free resources. NSAC’s newly revised Information Alert includes details on how to renew expiring contracts, as well as details regarding the changes that were part of the recent CSP “Reinvention,” which included major changes to the program this year. These changes are particularly important to participants renewing this year, as their renewal process will look significantly different from when they first enrolled in 2013.

The Information Alert lists these conservation activities in order of their conservation and environmental point values. The higher the point value, the greater the expected environmental benefit and thus the greater weight they have in terms of both ranking the application among other CSP applications, and calculating the ultimate CSP financial assistance payment the producer will receive. 

NSAC has also published an updated version of our Farmers’ Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program. Download the comprehensive guide from NSAC's website.

The renewal process should be fairly simple. Producers with expiring contracts can contact their local NRCS office with any questions about the renewal process.