February 21, 2020
Did you know that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is currently accepting applications for contract renewal 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 March 13 for 1-year extensions of 2015 contracts, and March 20, 2020 for 5 year renewals for farmers and ranchers who initially enrolled in CSP in Fiscal Years 2014, 2015, and 2016.
Farmers with CSP contracts that expire this year have three options:
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, there is significant benefit to renewing now: the process for renewing is much simpler than re-applying through the general sign-up process later, and participants will avoid any gaps in their CSP payments that would otherwise occur.
Most state NRCS offices are planning to send out letters notifying CSP contract holders, as is required by statute. While some state offices have already sent these letters out, many others have not.
It’s 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 up to renew their contract, we encourage you to let them know. Feel free to share this blog, or send them to their local NRCS office.
There are a few things different about this year’s CSP renewal process. Unlike in years’ past, this year’s renewals will be ranked competitively, using NRCS’s new Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART). Both the competitive ranking and the new tool are post-2018 Farm Bill changes.
Farmers will also need to meet additional criteria to apply for a renewal. This year’s renewal will be the first year that farmers see the changes made to CSP in the new farm bill actually implemented (as outlined in USDA’s new regulation governing CSP).
Farmers are eligible to renew for another five years if the farmer or rancher has met the terms of the 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. The 2018 Farm Bill modified that process such that renewal applications are considered within the broader pool each year, but if accepted, can still renew before their initial contract expires.
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 cover 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 at http://forms.sc.egov.usda.gov/eForms/ 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! You can also look at NSAC’s recently-published CSP information alert.
Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment