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Cutoff for program signup slated for Sept. 30

Thursday, August 13, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS -- Agriculture Dep. Sec. Kathleen Merrigan announced recently that the United States Department of Agriculture will begin continuous signup for the new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) Aug. 10, with the first signup period cutoff scheduled for Sept. 30.

CSP encourages agriculture and forestry producers to maintain existing conservation activities and adopt additional ones on their operations.

The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill) authorizes CSP, which is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Congress renamed and revamped the former Conservation Security Program completely to improve its availability and appeal to agriculture and forestry producers. Eligible lands now include cropland, grassland, improved pastureland, and non-industrial private forestland (a new land use for the program) and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe.

"With CSP in continuous signup, we are able to offer producers greater opportunity to enroll their eligible acreage in the program," NRCS State Conservationist Jane Hardisty said. "We encourage producers to use the self-screening checklist first to determine whether the new program is suitable for them and their operation. The checklist is available on the NRCS CSP website and at our local NRCS field offices."

Producers then need to submit an application (form NRCS-CPS 1200) to their local NRCS district conservationist. Forms are available at http://www.ocio.usda.gov/forms/index/htm... by typing the form number in the search box. NRCS staff will determine the land and producer's eligibility. If eligible, the next step for a potential participant is to schedule an appointment with their local NRCS staff to enter the producer's current and proposed conservation practices in the conservation measurement tool (CMT). This tool estimates the level of environmental performance to be achieved by a producer implementing and maintaining conservation activity. NRCS uses the estimates and the state's predetermined resource concerns to rank applications. NRCS staff will then conduct on-site field verifications of information obtained from the CMT. When the potential participant has been field verified and approved for funding, the participant must develop a conservation stewardship plan.

USA is finalizing the program's policies and procedures. The CSP interim final rule, published in the Federal Register, is open for public comment through Sept. 28.

For more information about CSP, including the self-screening checklist and the CSP activity list, log on to http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_cs....

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