A contract renewal sign-up is underway for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and Iowa farmers with contracts expiring this year have until May 5 to apply for a contract renewal.
CSP is the USDA’s largest working lands conservation program with more than 374,000 acres enrolled in Iowa. The Natural Resources Conservation Service made several updates to the popular program including helping producers better evaluate conservation options that benefit their operations while improving the health and productivity of land. There are 351 expiring (2013) CSP contracts this year on 161,791.6 acres that eligible for renewal, according to the Iowa NRCS.
Farmers with existing CSP contracts that will expire on Dec. 31, 2017, can access the benefits of the recent program changes through an 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 expiring contracts are due by May 5.
“The changes made to CSP are providing even greater opportunities for stewardship-minded producers across the country to participate and bring their conservation efforts to a higher level,” according to Acting Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Young. “The new tools and methods for evaluating operations, expanded options to address the producer’s conservation and business objectives, and the focus on local resource priorities have resulted in a 30 percent increase in applications for this widely popular program.”
For the fiscal year ending Oct. 1, 2016, Iowa NRCS reports there were 628 contracts covering 374,000 acres and totaling $6.3 million in payments for farmers actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, buffer strips, pollinator and beneficial insect habitat, and soil health building activities – all while maintaining active agricultural production on their land. Benefits to producers can include:
- Improved cattle gains per acre;
- Increased crop yields;
- Decreased inputs;
- Wildlife population improvements; and
- Better resilience to weather extremes.
“CSP is for working lands,” Young said. “Thousands of people have made the choice to voluntarily enroll in the program because it helps them enhance natural resources and improve their business operation.”
Those interested in contract renewals or applying for CSP for the first time should contact their county NRCS office.
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