http://1.usa.gov/1enoxIJ

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program – Flickr CC

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Conservation Stewardship Program Serves Farmers of All Types and All Sizes

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is currently accepting, ranking, and funding applications for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) until February 27th. Interested farmers can apply year round, but to be considered for funding, applications should be turned in by the February deadline. The 2014 Farm Bill has authorized more than 7.5 million acres to be enrolled in the program this year – almost as much land as the states of Vermont and Delaware combined.

Sheboygan County District Conservationist Michael Patin talks about the benefits of the program for farmers.

“I think one of the benefits of CSP is that it really allows the producer to collaboratively work with their consultant and NRCS to identify enhancements that fit into the existing operation to continue to implement stewardship on their farms.  CSP also allows the producer to pick the new enhancements on either the entire farm, or a field-by-field basis. This flexibility to adopt only those new enhancements, as you feel comfortable implementing, gives you a chance to try them out before adopting them across the farm.”

CSP provides producers with financial incentives to support conservation work on their working lands. Through the conservation practices implemented, Wisconsin producers are helping to address resource concerns like soil, air, water, and animal habitat quality. The program differs from other conservation programs because it specifically seeks to address conservation on lands that are currently in production. This creates unique financial opportunities for producers who currently integrate conservation practices into their operations and provides assistance for those who want to explore using these practices more extensively.

Outagamie County Farmer George Van Wychen enrolled in CSP 5 years ago because he cares about the environment and appreciates the financial assistance that CSP offers so he can do more conservation practices on his land.

“I farm with an environmental conscience and I like being on the cutting edge of different conservation practices in my operation. I saw enrolling in CSP as a logical and complementary next step to some of the other NRCS programs I use. I’ve also recently renewed my CSP contract for another 5 years because I’m really happy with the program and the payments, which helps me shoulder the cost of my conservation work. I encourage farmers who have an interest in benefiting the environment and remaining profitable to explore and enroll in CSP.”

There are a few changes to CSP this year that fell under the 2014 Farm Bill. Some of these changes have expanded the list of available conservation activities, commonly called “enhancements”, to include increasingly popular practices like cover cropping and intensive rotational grazing.

Vernon County Farmer Jim Munsch discusses his involvement with CSP and why it pays to be in the program.

“We have a production model for grass-fed beef that is inherently good from a soil conservation standpoint.  We are in tough competition with subsidized grain producers for rented land.  Without payments from CSP for existing conservation practices and new practices required by CSP, we could not compete and would lose more rented land.  This would force us to reduce our operation.  While CSP payments do not equal the economic value of the current subsidized insurance program, they do help.”

The assistance that NRCS provides allows Wisconsin producers to create conservation realities from their desires to benefit the environment while remaining profitable.

Michael Fields Agricultural Institute’s Assistant Policy Director George Reistad expands on producer’s possibilities through program enrollment.

“The Conservation Stewardship Program was created for farmers of all types and all sizes and we want all Wisconsin farmers to be aware of the financial opportunities that exist through enrollment in CSP. This program really does provide producers with the tools, both through a management and financial lens, to effectively and efficiently implement conservation practices on their working lands.”

For interested producers who want to enroll in the program, applications should be turned in to local NRCS offices no later than Friday, February 27th, 2015.

Find your Local NRCS Service Center here: http://1.usa.gov/1enoxIJ

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program – Flickr CC