Des Moines, Iowa — USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications at local offices for newly-available funding through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
The USDA says it’s their largest conservation program that helps farmers voluntarily improve conservation efforts on private working lands.
NRCS accepts applications for CSP throughout the year, but producers should submit applications by March 31 to their local USDA Service Center to ensure they are considered for enrollment in 2016. Current CSP participants with expiring contracts on December 31st have the 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 land. Renewal applications are also due March 31st.
The program emphasizes conservation performance – producers earn higher payments for higher performance. Through CSP, producers install conservation enhancements to make positive changes in soil health, soil erosion, water quality, water quantity, air quality, plant resources, animal resources and energy.
Through CSP, you can perform such conservation activities as an on-farm energy audit, incorporating cover crop mixes on your cropland, and using nitrogen provided from animal manure to supply 100 percent of your corn crop’s nutrient needs.
CSP also supports the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy through various conservation activities. The Iowa strategy includes practices designed to reduce nutrient loads from nonpoint sources such as farm fields. Some popular CSP nutrient reduction enhancements used by Iowa farmers include:
- Cover crops to scavenge residual nitrogen;
- Precision application technology to apply nutrients;
- Split nitrogen application (50% after crop emergence or pasture green-up);
- Plant tissue tests and analysis to improve nitrogen management.
A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, stewardship threshold requirements and payment types.