April 1, 2022
Did you know that the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is currently accepting applications for contract renewals in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)?
CSP is a comprehensive working lands conservation program that provides 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 production. Through CSP, farmers take steps to improve soil, water, air, and habitat quality, and can also address water quantity and energy conservation issues.
CSP contracts last for five years, at which time they are eligible for renewal. The window for this year’s renewal applications is a tight one. CSP renewal applications are due on April 15, 2022 for 5 year renewals.
Farmers may renew CSP contracts that were signed under the following funding pools:
It is optional to renew an expiring CSP contract, and farmers who do not re-enroll can always re-apply and compete for funding in future annual CSP signups. However, farmers hoping to renew will compete in a smaller pool for funding amongst other renewal offers, rather than in the wider application pool. Participants awarded renewed contracts will avoid any gaps in their CSP payments that would otherwise occur.
Should I have gotten a letter in the mail?
There may be some questions around the renewal notification process. NRCS offices were directed to send out letters notifying CSP contract holders of the opportunity to renew by March 18, 2022, as is required by statute. While some state offices have already sent these letters out, some may not have.
To avoid any confusion, it is therefore important to ensure that as many current CSP farmers as possible know about this important, and timely, opportunity to reenroll in USDA’s largest conservation program! If you know of farmers and ranchers who are currently enrolled in CSP and may be eligible to renew their contract this year, we encourage you to let them know. Share this blog post or send them to their local NRCS office.
This year’s renewals will be ranked competitively, using NRCS’s Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART). Both the competitive ranking and the new tool are the result of changes made in the 2018 Farm bill (as outlined in USDA’s final regulation governing CSP).
Farmers are eligible to renew for another five years if the farmer or rancher has met the terms of their preceding contract and is willing to adopt additional conservation activities or solve additional resource concerns. Prior to the 2018 Farm Bill, renewals were automatic provided that a participant met the eligibility requirements. Now, renewal applications are considered within a separate state funding pool each year, but if the renewal is accepted, it can still renew before their initial contract expires.
Since the implementation of the CSP final rule, an important change was made to the renewal process. Last year, producers who were denied a renewal had to wait two full years before reapplying in the general pool. As of this year, farmers who are denied a renewal may immediately reapply in the next general CSP sign up.
What happens next?
It is important that at least one person who is listed on the original CSP contract apply for the renewal. If you intend to add any new land to the renewal contract, or your farming operation has changed significantly, please be prepared to address this in your application.
To apply for renewal consideration, farmers must complete and submit the Conservation Program Application (NRCS-CPA-1200) and Conservation Stewardship Program Contract Renewal Offer Worksheet (NRCS-CPA-1248). These forms are available online or at your local NRCS office.
If you have specific questions about the renewal process or want to get started, reach out to your local NRCS office as soon as you can!