HARRISBURG – A new program is available to Pennsylvania agricultural and forestry producers offering financial incentives to adopt additional conservation activities on their land. The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is a voluntary program that encourages producers to maintain existing conservation activities and add new ones.
“This program is for those willing to do additional conservation activities over and above their current stewardship levels,” said Craig Derickson, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist in Pennsylvania.
The program was authorized by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill and will be available through 2017. It replaces the former Conservation Security Program, which Congress renamed and completely revamped to improve its availability and appeal to producers. It is being administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“CSP is one of many state and federal programs that are available to help producers integrate conservation stewardship into their operations to prevent soil erosion, enhance soil quality, prevent water contamination, and improve plant and animal health,” said Secretary Dennis Wolff.
Producers interested in applying for CSP are encouraged to review program details online before making an appointment with their local NRCS field office. Applications must be submitted by September 30 to be considered for funding in the first ranking period.
Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, improved pastureland, and non-industrial private forestland. Eligible applicants include individual landowners and legal entities that are listed in the USDA Farm Records Management System.
Producers doing a variety of conservation practices can profit from the program. Such practices include controlling wind erosion, conserving energy, using high efficiency pumps, growing high residue-producing crops, using minimum tillage, growing cover crops, installing buffers to prevent runoff from going directly into lakes and streams, managing non-cropped areas for wildlife, providing food plots and flooding fields for wildlife, avoiding nesting periods when mowing hay, using integrated pest management, applying fertilizer according to soil and tissue tests, following a nutrient management plan, and following a grazing management system that maintains soil and water quality and provides adequate forage to meet livestock demands.
To apply for CSP, participants are encouraged to use a self-screening checklist first to determine whether the program is suitable for them. It is available at NRCS field offices and on the internet. After self-screening, the producer’s current and proposed conservation activities will be ranked by NRCS, which will also conduct on-site field verifications.
CSP payment rates will be based on a combination of points determined by the producer’s current and planned conservation enhancements. Final payment rates for the 2009 CSP sign-up have not yet been established. Payments are based on cost of stewardship/conservation activities, forgone income, and environmental benefits achieved. To receive the high end of payments participants will need to commit to do several additional activities.
Contracts will cover the entire agricultural operation and be for five years. Payments to an individual or legal entity may not exceed $40,000 per year and $200,000 in a five-year period.
For information about CSP, producers can visit online or contact your local NRCS office by calling Gary Swope, 814-375-2125 Extension 114, at 478 Jeffers Street, DuBois, PA.