A bill to fund the federal government for the remaining six months of fiscal year 2013 is now awaiting the President’s signature. The House of Representatives passed the government funding bill on Thursday morning by a vote of 318-109. Senate passage occurred on Wednesday, on a 73-26 vote.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is pleased to announce that the final bill removes all remaining obstacles to farmers and ranchers having the opportunity to enroll this year in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). USDA can now proceed with enrolling approximately 12 million acres of agricultural land in the program this year, an amount that will bring the program to a grand total of 62 million acres by year’s end. NSAC has been campaigning for this result since last October 1 when the first government funding bill for fiscal year 2013 accidentally shut off the CSP enrollment for the year.
Once the President signs the bill, USDA will receive the go-ahead from the Office of Management and Budget to begin the enrollment process. USDA has not yet decided what the deadline for farmer applications will be, but we believe it will be sometime during the month of May. Interested farmers and ranchers can apply at any time and should check with their local Natural Resource Conservation Service office for further information.
CSP is a working lands conservation program that rewards farmers and ranchers for the environmental benefits they produce. It is available on a nationwide basis. CSP offers technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers for adopting and maintaining high standards of resource conservation and environmental stewardship. Assistance is provided for actively managing and improving existing conservation systems and for implementing new conservation activities on land in agricultural production.
In the program’s first four enrollment years (2009-2012), NRCS has enrolled nearly 39,000 farmers and ranchers operating 50 million acres of farm and ranch land that is now under five-year, renewable CSP conservation contracts worth $3.3 billion.
The enrollment process is competitive, based on conservation and environmental benefits. An NSAC blog post reviews all of the conservation and environmental benefit scores for various conservation enhancement activities available through the program.
Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, prairie land, improved pastureland, rangeland, non-industrial private forest lands, and agricultural land under tribal jurisdiction. Applicants must demonstrate they have effective control over these lands to be eligible, either through ownership or reasonably secure leases.
Producers wanting more detailed information may want to review NSAC’s Farmers’ Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program available for free download at sustainableagriculture.net/publications. The Guide provides clear information on conservation activities eligible for CSP payments to improve conservation performance and environmental benefits. It also includes step-by-step enrollment guidance, key definitions, and helpful hints.