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New Guidelines for the Conservation Stewardship Program

September 24, 2009

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), a program built from improvements to the Conservation Security Program, has announced the new requirements for participation as stipulated in the 2008 Farm Bill. The CSP allows farmers to earn payments for both ongoing conservation practices and new additions to their current conservation activities.

The Conservation Stewardship Program has streamlined and simplified the processes used by the Conservation Security Program to make the program more accessible to farmers. Instead of waiting for a particular watershed to come up for enrollment, farmers may now apply to the CSP anytime they choose.  Additionally, all contracts are now paid the same way; farms are awarded “performance points” that correlate to the environmental benefits they provide and the number of acres involved.  The CSP has been budgeted to enroll 12.8 million acres each year for the next ten years through renewable five-year contracts, resulting in up to 13% of the nation’s farmland meeting their conservation standards in 10 years.

The CSP uses a Conservation Measurement Tool (CMT) to evaluate the environmental impact of the applying farms. The CMT includes considerations for the most locally pressing issues, such as soil erosion, soil quality, water conservation, water quality, air quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, and energy. States determine which resource concerns are most pressing throughout the state or areas within it. Applicants then compete within these designated areas to determine which farms will have the greatest positive environmental impact; those ranking highest are invited into the CSP. Approximately 40% of the payment to a farm is awarded for existing conservation activity at the time of enrollment, and the addition 60% is awarded for new practices and enhancements, with  payments  totaling  up to $40,000 a year.

For more information and guidelines on CSP signup, visit the website of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition at http://sustainableagriculture.net or go directly to the Farmer’s Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program at: http://sustainableagriculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/CSP_FarmersGuide_final_September_2009.pdf

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