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NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program Sign-ups, Even Through COVID-19

Heads-up to farmers interested in enrolling in the USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program: The program sign-up has not been canceled, even with the pandemic! The Wisconsin NRCS announced today that their application deadline for 2020 enrollment is May 29, 2020. Other states’ deadlines will likely vary.

A few things to think about:

– If you haven’t worked with NRCS before or even in the last year, you should contact the Farm Service Agency first to update your normal USDA eligibility requirements; i.e. Adjusted Gross Income, Wetland/Highly Erodible Land compliance, entity documents, land operator documentation, etc.

– When contacting your local NRCS office, please keep in mind that the office is closed to the public but is being staffed by a single person at a time, so it’s smart to get started soon so you can get served in a timely way.

– NRCS staff is still making farm visits but asks farmers to keep a physical distance when they come.

– Otherwise NRCS is trying to be as close to business as usual to support all producers. So, it is more important than ever to call ahead if someone needs direct assistance. NRCS says, “We take applications almost any way possible, including over the phone. The application form can be found here.

– Organic farmers: a special heads up. This is the first year of implementing provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill, including specific support for organic practices and for transitioning to organic production.

– Other Farm Bill changes include higher payment rates for certain conservation activities. For more information, visit the NRCS Payment Schedule website at this link.

– And NRCS now enrolls eligible, high-ranking applications based on dollars, rather than acres.

For more information, contact your local NRCS office or go to https://www.farmers.gov/service-center-locator.