Farmers’ Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program now available

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WASHINGTON — The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition released an updated version of the Farmers’ Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program.

The guide is intended to help farmers, ranchers, and foresters understand the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) enrollment process.

Eligibility

In addition, it provides information on conservation activities eligible for CSP payments to improve conservation performance and environmental benefits. The CSP is a whole farm and comprehensive working lands conservation program administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Its primary focus is management practices.

It also includes a new five-page section with data analysis of the program’s first two sign-up periods in 2009 and 2010. This data section includes analysis of program participation by geographic region, land use type, commodity type, and the top conservation practices and enhancements chosen by farmers who have enrolled in the program.

Resources

CSP targets priority resource issues in specific states and watersheds, paying farmers for the adoption of new conservation enhancements and the active management of ongoing conservation activities to help solve the resource concerns.

The leading resource concerns currently addressed by the program are water quality, wildlife habitat, soil quality, and erosion. In some areas of the country water conservation and air quality are also priority considerations.

In just three years of operation, the program has enrolled nearly 30,000 farmers and ranchers operating over 37.5 million acres of farm and ranch land that is now under five-year, renewable CSP conservation contracts.

Green payments

To date, CSP “green” payments are averaging $170 million per year per sign-up, or approximately $850 million for each annual enrollment class over the course of the five-year CSP contract. Individual farmer contracts are capped at $40,000 per year, with the average-sized contract currently running between $15,000 and $20,000 per year.

Enrollment is based on environmental benefit scores as determined by the Conservation Measurement Tool (CMT). The CMT is explained in detail in the Guide. CSP is a continuous sign-up program, meaning producers can apply to enroll at any time of the year.

The Farmers’ Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program is available for download on the “publications” page at www.sustainableagriculture.net/publications.

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