Farm Bill Help Line offers assistance
CSP signup deadline extended.
USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently announced that the deadline for producer applications for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) has been extended to Jan. 7.
“This a welcome extension for the CSP application deadline, considering the original deadline was set for November 1st, which is busy harvest time for many farmers,” said Traci Bruckner, Assistant Director of Rural Policy at the Center for Rural Affairs. “This will provide farmers and ranchers more time to complete their applications, including going through the Conservation Measurement Tool.”
The Conservation Stewardship Program is a voluntary stewardship incentives program, administered by USDA’s NRCS, designed to reward farmers, ranchers, and forestry producers to maintain existing conservation, as well as for the adoption of additional conservation measures that provide multiple environmental benefits that run beyond the farm or ranch. This program pays producers for clean water, better soil management, improved habitat, energy efficiency, and other natural resource benefits.
Bruckner is encouraging farmers, ranchers and others to call the Center for Rural Affairs’ Farm Bill Helpline with questions about the application process and to share their experiences, both positive and negative.
“We know the previous sign-ups have yielded some great success stories for farmers and ranchers, but also some disappointments and frustrations,” Bruckner said.
“We want this program to work for all farmers and ranchers employing conservation-based farming systems, and firmly believe the CSP is a step in the right direction for policy to financially reward historical commitments to conservation, as well as encourage further adoption,” Bruckner continued. “This is a far better approach than paying to clean-up problems. However, we understand there are problems to work out, as is the case with all or most programs as they are rolled out.”
Bruckner said that it would be most useful for producers to have specific information available when they call, including a complete copy of their application materials, and more specifically the Conservation Measurement Tool responses and ranking information for their state or ranking area.
The NRCS office will provide only a summary, unless specifically asked for a complete print out that includes their ranking information, the highest scores in their state or area, and how far down the ranking list NRCS was able to provide contracts before the money ran out for the last sign-up period.
“One of the main goals for our Farm Bill Helpline is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of programs such as the CSP,” said Bruckner. “It is only with that information that we are able to push for any needed changes and improvements.”