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Agricultural News

New Tools Released to Help Farmers Applying for 2017 Conservation Stewardship Program

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 11:08:50 CST

New Tools Released to Help Farmers Applying for 2017 Conservation Stewardship Program Following the release by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) of a "reinvented" Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) - the most significant overhaul to the program in eight years -the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has published updated resources designed to support farmers considering an application to the program. NSAC was instrumental in developing CSP, today the nation's largest working lands conservation program, which supports farmers and ranchers in their efforts to actively manage and expand conservation activities on their agricultural lands. As part of their commitment to empowering and educating family farmers nationwide, NSAC has provided a free online guidebook, the Farmers Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program, since the program's inception.

The 2017 sign-up period officially opened on November 14. Farmers and ranchers will have until February 3, 2017 to submit the initial CSP application, which consists of a simple form that asks for information regarding land ownership, type of production, and contact information. Although farmers can sign up for CSP anytime throughout the year, those who miss the February 3 deadline will not be considered for the program until 2018.

This year, outreach to potential applicants will be particularly important, given the significant changes the program has undergone. NRCS undertook the CSP reinvention with the intent of making the program more transparent, flexible, and farmer-friendly. In order to meet these objectives, it will be critical to ensure that potential participants are well aware of the CSP opportunities and application process.

"In order to be considered for CSP in 2017, farmers must submit their initial application before the February 3 deadline," said Alyssa Charney, Policy Specialist at NSAC. "The next two months therefore will be the critical period for engaging farmers so they know what the CSP changes mean for them and can assess whether the program is a good fit. NSAC and its 117 member organizations support farmers and ranchers nationwide in their efforts to apply for and participate in CSP. To aid those efforts, NSAC's CSP 2017 Information Alert and updated Farmers Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program provide the step-by-step sign-up and enrollment details producers need to easily access and benefit from this redesigned version of CSP."

While the updates to CSP have been a long time coming, the first time potential applicants will be able to access the details of the reinvention will be during this sign-up window. NRCS has posted several program tools and the revised conservation activity choices online. However, there remain many additional details and important program tools that NRCS has yet to make public.

"In order to make informed decisions about their CSP applications, farmers and ranchers need to be able to review the new payment schedules, as well be able to see and understand the new eligibility and ranking tools," said Charney. "NSAC strongly supports the public release of all details of the CSP reinvention as early as possible, and we continue to urge NRCS to make the full details and all the relevant program tools available to farmers well before the February 3 deadline."

With the complete release of the reinvention details still pending, NSAC's CSP 2017 Information Alert and Farmers Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program are available for free online as tools to help farmers determine if CSP is right for them. This year's Information Alert includes step-by-step sign-up and enrollment details. It also walks farmers through the 2017 changes to the program, including the following updated tools, resource and provisions:

- New eligibility tool - the Conservation Activity Evaluation Tool (CAET)

- New ranking tool - the Application, Evaluation, and Ranking Tool (AERT)

- Minimum contract payment information

- New added flexibility for mid-contract changes

- Expanded options for enhancements, practices, and bundles

- Redesigned payment structure

NSAC's detailed Farmers Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program includes enrollment guidance, key definitions, explanations of the ranking and payment system, and helpful hints for accessing the program.

The CSP Information Alert and the Farmers Guide to CSP are available for free download on the NSAC website.

Source - National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition



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