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USDA Conservation Stewardship Program Accepting Applications
02:10PM / Tuesday, February 09, 2016
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AMHERST, Mass. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has $150 million in funding available for agricultural producers across the country through the Conservation Stewardship Program, a federal conservation program that helps farmers voluntarily improve the health and productivity of private and Tribal working lands.

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service plans to add an estimated 10 million acres to the rolls of CSP during fiscal 2016.

"The Conservation Stewardship Program helps farmers boost soil and air quality, conserve clean water and enhance wildlife habitat," said Christine Clarke, NRCS state conservationist. "With this investment, we'll enable producers to achieve higher levels of conservation and adopt new and emerging conservation technologies on farm and forest land."

Participants earn CSP payments for conservation performance; the higher the performance, the higher the payment. Eligible lands include private and Tribal agricultural lands, cropland, grassland, pastureland, rangeland and nonindustrial private forest land. CSP is available to all producers, regardless of operation size or type of crops produced, in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Caribbean and Pacific Island areas.

Applications for CSP are accepted throughout the year, but producers should submit applications by March 31 to USDA service centers to ensure they are considered for enrollment in 2016. The Berkshire County field office in Pittsfield can be contacted at 413-443-1776, Ext. 3.

Participants with existing CSP contracts that will expire on Dec. 31, 2016, have the 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 are also due by March 31.

Funding is available for more than 100 kinds of enhancements nationwide to help participants:

  • Improve soil quality through use of cover crops, conservation crop rotations and other activities that increase soil productivity.
  • Use water wisely and improve water quality through enhancements such as more efficient irrigation systems and weather monitoring.
  • Restore habitat for wildlife and pollinators through the use of better grazing systems and improved plant management.

A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is compatible with their operation. As part of the application process, applicants will work with NRCS field personnel to complete a resource inventory of their land to determine the conservation performance for existing and new conservation activities. The applicant’s conservation performance will be used to determine eligibility, ranking and payments.

Through CSP, USDA has provided more than $4 billion since 2009 in assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest managers to enhance conservation on more than 70 million acres. In Massachusetts, some 15,649 acres have benefited from CSP since 2009.

For more on technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit www.ma.nrcs.usda.gov.

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