On March 30, acting deputy agriculture secretary Michael Young announced that a contract renewal signup for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is actively underway. Applications to renew expiring contracts are due May 5.
Young says more than 80 million acres are enrolled in the program. Recently, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) made changes that will help producers better evaluate the conservation options that can benefit their operations, according to Young.
“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,” he says. “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% increase in applications for this widely popular program.
For CSP contracts set to expire this Dec. 31, producers can renew their contracts for another five years if they agree to adopt additional activities that will drive higher levels of conservation on their lands. Some such activities include cover crops, buffer strips, habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects and activities that promote soil health.
As the land improves, Young says producers will reap rewards that could 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,” he says. “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.”
Young refers producers interested in renewing their contracts or applying for CSP for the first time to visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/csp or connect with their local USDA service center.