Farmers and Ranchers: Sign Up for Conservation Stewardship Program

Deadline extended! Farmers and ranchers have until March 13 to sign up for nation’s largest federal conservation program!

Washington, DC February 23, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended the sign-up period for the 2015 edition of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) – the federal farm bill’s largest working lands conservation program. Farmers and ranchers now have two additional weeks – until March 13 – to complete the initial application form.

Coinciding with this two-week extension, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has released a new, updated version of its CSP Information Alert, with step-by-step sign-up and enrollment details. The Information Alert now includes program choices ranked by conservation and environmental benefit.

CSP rewards producers for the conservation and environmental benefits they produce on their working agricultural lands; all private agricultural land, including cropland, pasture, and rangeland, is eligible to enroll in CSP.  For example, CSP contract-holding farmers can receive payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, rotational grazing, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and the transition to organic farming. 

Details on this year’s program are available for free in an Information Alert published this week by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Farmers and ranchers must submit initial applications to their local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office by Feb 27 to have their applications considered for 2015. Applications will be scored and ranked based on farmers’ current and planned on-farm conservation activities, and the applications offering the highest level of environmental benefits will be awarded CSP contracts.

CSP contract holders that enrolled in 2011 are now in the final year of their five-year contract and are therefore eligible to renew for another five years. Initial requests to renew must be submitted to local NRCS offices by March 31.

CSP is the nation’s largest conservation program by acreage and is widely popular among farmers and ranchers. Since the program began in 2009, nearly 70 million acres of farm and ranch land have been enrolled in the program.

Producers are encouraged to fill out the NRCS’ Self-Screening Checklist to help determine if CSP is right for their farm.

Shari Hawley