USDA Finalizes Conservation Rule

Ernie NeffEnvironment

conservation

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released the final rule for its Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The rule makes updates to the program as directed by the 2018 farm bill and integrates feedback from agricultural producers and others. 

CSP provides many benefits, including increased crop yields, decreased inputs, wildlife habitat improvements and increased resilience to adverse weather. CSP is for Florida working lands, including cropland, pastureland, rangeland, nonindustrial private forest land and agricultural land under Indian tribe jurisdiction.

“NRCS has prioritized the implementation of the 2018 farm bill, including important changes to the Conservation Stewardship Program, which is designed to help farmers put more robust conservation activities in place,” said Juan Hernandez, state conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Florida. 

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The final rule better aligns CSP with NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) through common applications, contracting operations, conservation planning and practices, and related administrative procedures. EQIP is a voluntary program that helps promote agricultural production and environmental quality by providing producers in Florida financial and technical assistance to implement structural and management conservation practices on working agricultural lands.

NRCS received more than 600 comments on an interim final rule that was published in November 2019. Among other things, the final rule added emphasis to enhancing soil health as a way that program participants can achieve program goals.

Initial updates to CSP in the interim final rule included:

  • Increased payment rates for adoption of cover crop rotations
  • A new supplemental payment for advanced grazing management
  • A one-time payment for developing a comprehensive conservation plan
  • Specific support for organic and transitioning to organic production activities

CSP helps producers enhance the conservation activities on their working lands, and it contributes to USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda of reducing the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture in half by 2050. Earlier this year, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the department-wide initiative to align resources, programs and research to position American agriculture to better meet future global demands.

Learn more about the final rule here.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

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