Editor's Note: The June 2010 issue of No-Till Farmer included an in-depth feature story on the Conservation Security Program, "New Conservation Program Merits A Closer Look," on pages 4 to 5.

Farmers wanting to enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) have until June 11 to get applications filed at their local USDA office.

After filing the application, farmers will also need to schedule an appointment to complete the CSP Conservation Management Tool (CMT), a set of questions related to their conservation baseline and scheduled improvements. After all applicants who file the short application have completed the CMT, USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) will rank the proposals to determine the best offers for enrollment during this 2010 sign-up.

Ranking, and then field visits and contract signing, will occur over the summer months, with the goal of enrolling 12.8 million acres of crop, pasture, range and private non-industrial forest lands. Combined with the 12.8 million acres enrolled in the 2009 sign-up, CSP enrollment will stand at 25.6 million acres by this fall. 

The first CSP payments for both the 2009 and 2010 enrollees will occur in October 2010.

Today's USDA announcement comes in advance of the issuance of the final rule for the CSP. The program operated under an interim final rule in 2009. Important changes to the rule are expected, so farmers will be granted an opportunity to re-assess whether to keep their application pending once the final rule is issued.

At the current time, USDA expects the final rule to be issued prior to the June 11 application cut-off point. A revised CMT will also be issued in the near future.?? Also expected soon is a report on the 2009 sign-up, which is just now being finalized with the signing of the last few contracts.

"We have heard from many farmers and ranchers excited about their new CSP contracts from the 2009 sign-up," says Ferd Hoefner, policy director for the NSAC. "We encourage other producers to consider enrolling during the next month by getting applications filed at their local office. CSP is an important tool for advancing the sustainability of agriculture for generations to come."

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is a comprehensive working lands conservation program established by the 2008 Farm Bill to provide 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 agricultural production.

CSP targets funding to:

  • Address particular resources of concern in a given watershed, region or state
  • Assist farmers and ranchers to improve soil, water and air quality
  • Provide increased biodiversity and wildlife and pollinator habitat
  • Sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change
  • Conserve water and energy.

The 2008 Farm Bill authorizes a new nationwide, continuous sign-up for CSP, which means farmers anywhere in the country will be able to apply for the CSP any year and at any time of the year.

Periodically during the year, NRCS will rank applications and then develop contracts with those farmers and ranchers with the highest rankings until funding for that ranking period is completely allocated.