Conservation Program Improvements

Ernie NeffEnvironment

Cover crop in citrus row middles

The application deadline for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is March 26 for fiscal year 2021.  

Through CSP, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for expanding conservation activities while maintaining agricultural production on their land. CSP also encourages adoption of new technologies and management techniques.

Changes in the 2018 farm bill authorize NRCS to accept new CSP enrollments from now until 2023, and it makes some improvements to the program. Here are some of the improvements:

  • NRCS now enrolls eligible applications based on dollars rather than acres. For fiscal 2021, NRCS in Florida can spend up to $3 million in the program, which covers part of the cost for producers implementing new conservation activities and maintaining their existing activities in all eligible land. Eligible land includes private and tribal agricultural lands, cropland, rangeland, pastureland, non-industrial private forestland, farmstead and associated ag land.
  • Higher payment rates are now available for certain conservation activities, including cover crops and resource-conserving crop rotations. (Learn about recent research findings regarding cover crops for citrus here.) 
  • The annual payment limitation of $40,000 no longer applies.

While applications are accepted throughout the year, interested producers should submit applications to their local NRCS office by the March 26 deadline to ensure their applications are considered for 2021 funding.

According to the USDA’s CSP website, CSP is the largest conservation program in the United States. Thousands of people voluntarily enroll in the program because it helps them enhance natural resources and improve their business operations. Benefits CSP participants have realized include enhanced resiliency to weather and market volatility, decreased need for agricultural inputs and improved wildlife habitat conditions.

More information about CSP can be obtained from a local USDA service center; find one here.

Source: USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service

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