Producers with expiring U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation Stewardship Program contracts have from July 11 until Sept. 12 to renew and add conservation activities that will support their natural resource improvement activities and fine-tune their conservation plans.
"CSP farmers are conservation leaders and go the extra mile to conserve our nation's resources," said Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Jason Weller. "The 2014 Farm Bill continued that strong commitment and heightened the program's focus on generating conservation benefits. This program allows landowners to reach the next level of conservation and opens the door to trying new conservation activities."
About 20,000 CSP contracts are reaching the end of their initial five-year contract period and may be renewed for an additional five years when participants agree to take additional conservation actions.
The program provides opportunities for farmers and ranchers who are already established conservation stewards, helping them improve water quality and quantity, soil health and wildlife habitat. Renewal applications will be accepted beginning July 11. There will also be another sign-up in fiscal year 2015.
More than 58 million acres were enrolled in the program — an area the size of Indiana and Wisconsin combined, following the launch of the program in 2009. CSP participants boost their operations' conservation benefits by installing new conservation activities that make positive changes in soil, water, air quality and wildlife habitat.
For example, the program helped Kentucky cattle farmers Jake and Jondra Shadowen improve the health of their cattle as well as the surrounding environment.
Through CSP, the Shadowens send manure samples to a laboratory for analysis six times a year to gauge cattle health and see how their cows are responding to forage. They also built wildlife-friendly fences, escape routes in water troughs and added pollinator habitat to the farm.
The farm is now a model for the community and has been used for soil health demonstrations to help others see the benefit of rotational grazing and added conservation practices.
To learn about technical and financial assistance available through CSP, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted, the Conservation Stewardship webpage or a local USDA service center. For more on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/FarmBill.