The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is opening the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) for new enrollments for federal fiscal year 2014. Starting today through Jan. 17, 2014, producers interested in participating in the program can submit applications to NRCS.
"Through the Conservation Stewardship Program, farmers and forest landowners are going the extra mile to conserve our nation's resources," NRCS State Conservationist for Illinois Ivan Dozier said. "Through their conservation actions, they ensure their operations are more productive and sustainable over the long run."
The CSP is an important Farm Bill conservation program that helps established conservation stewards take their level of natural resource management up to the next level. This improves both agricultural production and provides valuable conservation benefits, such as cleaner water, healthier soils, and better wildlife habitat.
Dozier said this sign-up opportunity is another example of USDA's comprehensive focus on promoting environmental conservation and strengthening the rural economy, and it is a reminder that a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill is pivotal to continue these efforts. CSP is now in its fifth year and so far, NRCS has partnered with producers to enroll more than 59 million acres across the nation.
The program emphasizes conservation performance—producers earn higher payments for higher performance. In CSP, producers install conservation enhancements to make positive changes in soil quality, soil erosion, water quality, water quantity, air quality, plant resources, animal resources, and energy.
Some popular enhancements used by farmers in Illinois include:
• Use of drift reducing nozzles, low pressures, lower boom height and adjuvants to reduce pesticide drift;
• Plant tissue testing and analysis to improve nitrogen management;
• Planting of cover crops to break up soil compaction or scavenge residual nitrogen.
Eligible landowners and operators in all states and territories can enroll in CSP through January 17th to be eligible during the 2014 federal fiscal year. While local NRCS offices accept CSP applications year round, NRCS evaluates applications during announced ranking periods.
To be eligible for this year's enrollment, producers must have applications submitted to NRCS by the closing date. A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, stewardship threshold requirements and payment types.
Learn more about CSP by visiting the NRCS website www.il.nrcs.usda.gov or contacting teams at the local NRCS field office.