NSAC's Blog

One Week to Sign-up for the Conservation Stewardship Program in 2019

May 3, 2019

Chris Dixon, White Hall MD in cover crop field with corn stubble in spring.
Chris Dixon, White Hall MD in cover crop field with corn stubble in spring. Photo credit: Edwin Remsberg.

Farmers and ranchers have just one week left to sign up for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the nation’s largest conservation program. Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced a deadline of May 10, 2019 for CSP applicants who want to be considered for enrollment this year.

To help producers interested in advancing conservation to better understand and more easily apply to the program, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) recently released an updated version of our CSP Information Alert. The Info Alert, which NSAC updates and reissues with each new round of CSP signups, includes detailed information about the application process and available conservation activities. The NSAC Info Alert also explains what changes made in the 2018 Farm Bill will mean for the 2019 enrollment period.

In general, the 2019 sign-up largely mirrors last year’s sign-up period – though there are a few important farm bill changes going into effect immediately. In addition to the CSP Information Alert, NSAC’s recent blog post provides a detailed overview of this year’s CSP sign-up and updates from the 2018 Farm Bill.

NSAC urges all eligible farmers and ranchers to consider submitting an application before the May 10 deadline.

Who is eligible to apply?

Any farmer or rancher who controls the land (and therefore takes on the risk of its production) is eligible for CSP. A participant can be an owner-operator, a renter with permission from the landlord to enroll, or an owner who crop shares with another farmer. Eligible land includes cropland, grassland, rangeland, pastureland, nonindustrial private forestland, and other agricultural lands (e.g., cropped woodland, marshes).

What is CSP?

CSP is a working lands conservation program administered by NRCS and available nationwide. CSP provides five-year contracts for technical and financial assistance to farmers adopting and maintaining high standards of resource conservation and environmental stewardship on eligible lands. Assistance is geared toward both the active management of existing conservation systems and the implementation of new conservation activities on land in agricultural production. CSP is unique in that it is the only program that takes a comprehensive, advanced approach to conservation, with payments reflecting the expected benefits and complexity of the participant’s conservation system.

Where to apply?

Farmers and ranchers interested in applying for CSP will need to go into their local NRCS field office within the next week to apply for 2019 support. Interested applicants should give their field office a call to make sure they have everything they need (identified below) before heading in to submit the initial application.

When is the deadline?

May 10, 2019 is the deadline for farmers and ranchers to complete and submit a short and simple application form, NRCS Form CPA 1200. Farmers and ranchers can apply at any point during the year for CSP, but if they don’t get their applications in by May 10, they will not be considered for the program until next year’s application period.

Why apply now?

CSP offers a unique opportunity for farmers and ranchers to be rewarded for their existing level of conservation, and also incentivizes producers to go above and beyond. CSP payments are two part: a maintenance payment based on the number of resource concerns that are met on each land use, and payments for the additional activities adopted over the course of the five-year contract.

This year is the first year of CSP enrollment under the 2018 Farm Bill, and important program changes that benefit farmers and ranchers have already gone into effect. One notable change is CSP’s increased payment rates for critical activities that benefit soil health: 150 percent of the otherwise determined payment rate for resource conserving crop rotations, and 125 percent for all cover crop based activities.

The payment rates for conservation enhancements, bundles, and practices can be found here, and should be updated for 2019 to reflect the increased rates under the new farm bill. More details on CSP’s payment structure are available in NSAC’s CSP Information Alert and from NRCS.

How to apply?

The initial step to apply for CSP is simple, but there are a few requirements applicants should know beforehand. Applicants must:

  • Have a farm record number established with USDA’s Farm Service Agency in order to include all agricultural or private forest land in the operation.
  • Control their enrolled land for the five-year term of the CSP contract.

If applicants don’t already have an FSA number, they’ll need to first go to a local FSA office to establish a farm record before submitting a CSP application.

Previously, an applicant needed to have a Data Universal Number System number (a unique number used to identify a farm business) as well as a current registration for the System for Award Management to apply as a business entity for CSP. This requirement was removed, however, in the fiscal year (FY) 2018 agriculture appropriations bill, simplifying the contracting process for participants and staff.

Following the submission of an initial application (NRCS Form CPA 1200), applicants will work with NRCS to evaluate management systems and natural resources on the operation’s land. More details about the application process and the benefits of CSP are available in NSAC’s CSP Information Alert, blog, and NRCS’s CSP website.

Additional Conservation Opportunities

In addition to CSP, there are several other opportunities for farmers and ranchers interested in applying for conservation support this year.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the other major working lands program that offers targeted cost share assistance, has open deadlines that vary by state. Within EQIP, several states have also announced deadlines for the Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program, which funds multi-stakeholder projects to promote science-based solutions to benefit both farmers and the environment. It’s expected that an announcement for the national component of CIG will come later this year.

Additionally, NRCS announced last month the availability of $450 million in funding for agriculture and wetland easements through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). The 2018 Farm Bill gave ACEP an increase of $200 million per year, and also added new provisions to prioritize projects that maintain farm viability and land affordability.

Stay tuned to the NSAC blog and social media for ongoing updates on conservation funding opportunities, as well as further updates and rulemakings under the 2018 Farm Bill.

Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment, Grants and Programs

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