USDA Makes Changes to Conservation Stewardship Program

USDA Makes Changes to Conservation Stewardship Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that it will be making changes to its Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) beginning October 1 of this year, according to the Wildlife Management Institute. CSP began as the Conservation Security Program in 2002 with 2,000 acres enrolled during its first year. It has evolved over time, with a name change to the Conservation Stewardship Program and more than 70 million acres enrolled nationwide since 2010.

CSP is a voluntary program offered by USDA in which producers receive payments for managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities while maintaining active agricultural production on their lands. Contracts for the program cover five years with an option to renew for an additional five. Payment rates increase as producers increase their conservation activities.

CSP has relied on a tool called the Conservation Measurement Tool (CMT) to evaluate operations and determine payments. Results from the CMT have been difficult to understand and explain, so USDA is developing a new process to assess applications and establish payment levels. The new evaluation process is intended to be more logical, easier to understand, and better integrated into other conservation programs offered by USDA. There will be more opportunity to customize conservation efforts to address state needs and to target activities to specific areas.

CSP is administered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). More information about CSP can be found on the program website. (pmr)

July 14, 2016