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Changes coming to USDA’s largest conservation program

US Department of Agriculture

The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service announces changes are on the horizon for the nation’s biggest conservation program, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

“With a lot of review and input from producers, partners and other stakeholders we are making important changes to CSP,” said NRCS Chief Jason Weller. “We want to make sure there is every opportunity for America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to take their conservation efforts to the next level.”

Since 2010, American land managers have voluntarily enrolled 70 million acres in CSP. Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, rotational grazing, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat — all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land.

“While CSP has proven to be effective, with a large enrollment and continuous interest, it’s important that it also be progressive and keep up with technology and producer’s desires to improve resources on their land,” Weller said. “Through feedback from across the country we made improvements to make a good program even better. This updated version of CSP provides more opportunities for conservation.”

Changes that producers can expect to see when the program is offered in FY17 include greater flexibility at the local level to prioritize resource concerns and conservation approaches, more enhancements and almost double the conservation practices offered. There also will be better reporting tools to tell producers the results of their conservation efforts on their land.

“This expanded conservation activity list offers Nevada farmers and ranchers more options to address natural resource challenges,” said Nevada State Conservationist Ray Dotson. “New conservation activities include new options for nutrient management, several new forestry management options, and enhancements to improve stream health as well as activities that benefit wildlife and pollinator habitat.”

CSP is for producers who are already established conservation stewards, helping them to deliver multiple conservation benefits on working lands, including improved water and soil quality and enhanced wildlife habitat.

The program will be offered in FY17 (Oct. 1-Sept. 30, 2017). Producers interested in the program can find at more at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/csp or visit their local USDA Service Center.