Farmers and landowners are reminded that the deadline for comments on the USDA's Conservation Stewardship Program are due Monday, January 13. You can learn more about the changes required by the 2018 farm bill and additional, discretionary, administrative changes proposed and currenlty being implemented by the USDA in this story. Farmers can also learn more about the interim rule proposed last November at this link and comment on it at this link.

With the changes made by Congress in the 2018 farm bill and other administrative changes in the November interim rule, applications for the CSP are accepted throughout the year. Producers may submit applications at their county NRCS office anytime to ensure their applications are considered for future periodic enrollments. The farm bill authorizes NRCS to accept new CSP enrollments until 2023, and it makes some important changes and expected improvements to the program.

In last fiscal year (2019), the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service signed 412 CSP contracts with Iowa producers on more than 118,000 acres totaling $16.3 million, compared with 499 contracts on 264,000 acres totaling $28.6 million the previous year. 

An April edition of the American Farm Bureau’s Market Intel reviewed changes made to CSP, EQIP and CSP Conservation Programs in the 2018 Farm Bill. These updates include:

  • NRCS now enrolls eligible, high ranking applications based on dollars rather than acres. For fiscal 2019, NRCS was able to spend up to $700 million in the program, which covered part of the cost for U.S. producers implementing new conservation activities and maintaining their existing activities.
  • Higher payment rates are now available for certain conservation activities, including cover crops and resource conserving crop rotations.
  • CSP now provides specific support for organic and for transitioning to organic production activities and a special grassland conservation initiative for certain producers who have maintained cropland base acres.
  • The program provides many benefits including increased crop yields, decreased inputs, wildlife habitat improvements and increased resilience to weather extremes. CSP is for working lands including cropland, pastureland, rangeland, nonindustrial private forest land and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe.

While the rule is already effective, additional changes may still be incorporated into the program after the comment period closes January 13. Farm Bureau supports the CSP and with greater accessibility to farmers. The interim rule is consistent with Farm Bureau policy.