Acting deputy agriculture secretary Michael Young announced that a contract renewal signup is underway for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s largest working lands conservation program, with more than 80 million acres enrolled.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) made several updates to the popular CSP program last fall. These changes help producers better evaluate conservation options that benefit their operations while improving the health and productivity of private and tribal working lands.
“The changes made to CSP are providing even greater opportunities for stewardship-minded producers across the country to participate and bring their conservation efforts to a higher level,” Young said. “The new tools and methods for evaluating operations, expanded options to address the producer’s conservation and business objectives and the focus on local resource priorities have resulted in a 30% increase in applications for this widely popular program.”
Participants with existing CSP contracts that will expire on Dec. 31 can access the benefits of the recent program changes through an option to renew their contracts for an additional five years if they agree to adopt additional activities to achieve higher levels of conservation on their lands. Applications to renew expiring contracts are due by May 5.
Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, buffer strips, pollinator and beneficial insect habitat and soil health-building activities – all while maintaining active agricultural production on their land. Benefits to producers may include:
- Improved cattle gains per acre;
- Increased crop yields;
- Decreased inputs;
- Wildlife population improvements, and
- Better resilience to weather extremes.
“CSP is for working lands,” Young noted. “Thousands of people have made the choice to voluntarily enroll in the program, because it helps them enhance natural resources and improve their business operation.”