The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) offers producers financial and technical assistance to maintain existing conservation activities and adopt additional ones on their operations. Additional activities are chosen from a list of enhancements that range from soil erosion and quality, water quality and quantity, air quality, as well as bundles that include several individual activities.
How it works:
CSP provides participants with two possible types of payments through five-year contracts: 1) Annual payments for installing new conservation activities and maintaining existing activities; and 2) supplemental payments for participants who adopt a resource-conserving crop rotation. CSP payments to any person or legal entity may not exceed $40,000 in a year and $200,000 during any five-year period for all contracts. Payments under a CSP contract with a joint operation may not exceed $80,000 in a year and $400,000 during the contract period.
Applications are taken on a continuous basis, and producers may apply at any time. Periodically, the application period will be closed to rank and determine application acceptance for the year. The cut off date for this year is JUNE 25. To be eligible for this period a producer must fill out the basic NRCS contract application prior to that date. For a pre-approved applicant, NRCS will request the applicant’s conservation activity records and conduct on-site field verification to ensure that information provided by the applicant was accurate prior to contract approval. Once information is verified, NRCS and the applicant develop the contract together.
The State Conservationist, in consultation with the State Technical Committee and local working groups, ranks CSP applications on natural resources that are of specific concern for the state. Agricultural land and nonindustrial private forest land are ranked separately.
CSP is available on private agricultural lands, as well as nonindustrial private forest lands. The program provides equitable access to all producers, regardless of operation size, crops produced, or geographic location. Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, prairie land, improved pastureland, rangeland, nonindustrial private forest land.
Applicants must be the operator of record in the USDA farm records management system for the eligible land being offered for enrollment, although NRCS may waive this requirement if the individual can demonstrate to the satisfaction of NRCS that they will operate and have effective control of the land; have documented control of the land for the term of the proposed contract (a yearly producer self certification is available in the absence of written leases); include the eligible land in their entire operation as represented for other USDA programs; be in compliance with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation provisions and have meet adjusted gross income provisions of the Farm Bill.
What do I have to do?
To maximize payment eligibility some cotton producers may wish to add a resource conserving crop to their rotation. In other areas of the cotton belt, the producer may wish to focus on water conservation or quality strategies.
Improving the odds:
Cotton producers interested in CSP are encouraged to complete a producer self-screening checklist. The checklist helps potential applicants decide whether CSP is the right program for them. The level of environmental benefit to be achieved will be estimated to determine eligibility, rank applications, and establish payments. A comprehensive conservation plan for the farm is not required prior to application, but it will greatly assist the producer in determining how best to proceed with an applications. Contracts are ranked according to state and local priorities. Check for these priorities on your NRCS state website.