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OPN Connect Newsletter 194 · November 26, 2020

NRCS Encourages Organic Growers to Apply to Its Updated Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)


Last month, the USDA released the final rule for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) program that offers financial and technical assistance to farmers and other landowners engaging in conservation activities.

The CSP builds on the NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which helps farmers and landowners implement practices that conserve natural resources and improve the environment. Through the CSP, which involves a five-year contract with the NRCS, landowners are financially incentivized to maintain and enhance their conservation activities. 

 

Stemilt January 2021

 

Because organic growers already employ conservation practices as part of their NOP-mandated Organic System Plans (OSPs), they are likely to be eligible to compete for the CSP, which requires applicants to document current conservation activities and be willing to add new ones. 

“A few of the CSP enhancements available that may be attractive to organic producers include intensive cover cropping to increase soil organic matter, reduced tillage to build soil health, advanced irrigation management to maximize efficiency and minimize erosion, [and] mulching to manage weeds,” said Carlos Suarez, state conservationist for the NRCS in California.

Chelan Fresh January 2021

Carlos Suarez, State Conservationist, NRCS California

The CSP builds on the NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which helps farmers and landowners implement practices that conserve natural resources and improve the environment. Through the CSP, which involves a five-year contract with the NRCS, landowners are financially incentivized to maintain and enhance their conservation activities.

Through the CSP, farmers receive free technical assistance from the NRCS and its network of technical service providers. The CSP also offers three types of financial rewards:

  • Existing Activity Payment. The CSP financially rewards participants for conservation practices they already have in place. For produce farmers, the compensation rate is $7.50 per acre of cropland for each year of participation (the CSP lasts for five years and can be renewed multiple times).
  • Additional Activity Payment. New conservation activities undertaken as part of the CSP are also compensated. The rate of compensation for these enhancements varies depending on the type of activity and the state where the farm is located. For more details, refer to the 2021 State Payment Schedules on the NRCS’s website.
  • Supplemental Payment. CSP participants can also be compensated for adding or improving a resource-conserving crop rotation (rates vary by state—see link above).
Valent January 2021

The CSP financially rewards participants for conservation practices they already have in place.

The CSP is part of the 2018 Farm Bill, and a final interim rule for the program was published in November 2019. The NRCS received over 600 comments on the interim rule, which the agency used to help create the final rule. Notable changes based on that feedback include a stronger emphasis on soil health as a conservation activity and the ability for landowners to apply for more than one renewal of the five-year CSP contract. 

“In 2020, California received a sizable boost in our CSP funding totaling over $8 million,” said Suarez. “We expect to receive at least this much in 2021, and we want organic and transitioning producers to be well-informed and well-positioned to take advantage of the conservation opportunity that CSP represents.”

Shenandoah Growers Jan2021

The CSP is part of the 2018 Farm Bill, and a final interim rule for the program was published in November 2019. The NRCS received over 600 comments on the interim rule, which the agency used to help create the final rule.

The California NRCS as well as all other state NRCS offices encourage organic growers to consider applying for the CSP. State NRCS offices will be announcing CSP application deadlines in early 2021. For more information, farmers should visit their state NRCS website or contact their local NRCS field office.

Naturesafe January 2021
Starr Ranch
Global Organics Group January 2021

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