The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is opening the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) for new enrollments for 2014. Producers interested in participating in the program can submit applications to NRCS now through Jan. 17, 2014.
"Through the Conservation Stewardship Program, farmers and forest landowners go extra mile to conserve our resources," NRCS State Conservationist Jimmy Bramblett, of Wisconsin, said. "Through their conservation actions, they are ensuring that their operations are more productive and sustainable over the long run."
The CSP is an important Farm Bill conservation program that helps established conservation stewards raise their level of natural resource management to the next level to improve both their farm production and provide valuable conservation benefits such as cleaner and more abundant water, as well as healthier soils and better wildlife habitat.
Bramblett said this program is another example of USDA's focus on environmental conservation and strengthening the rural economy, and it is a reminder that a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill is pivotal to continue these efforts. CSP is now in its fifth year and so far, NRCS has partnered with producers to enroll more than 59 million acres across the nation, and over 800,000 acres in Wisconsin.
The program emphasizes conservation performance — producers earn higher payments for higher performance. In CSP, producers install conservation enhancements to make positive changes in soil quality, soil erosion, water quality, water quantity, air quality, plant resources, animal resources and energy.
Some popular enhancements used by farmers and ranchers include:
· Establishing cover crops to protect and enhance the soil
· Using new nozzles that reduce the drift of pesticides, lowering input costs and making sure pesticides are used where they are most needed;
· Modifying water facilities to prevent bats and bird species from being trapped; and
· Eligible landowners and operators in all states and territories can enroll in CSP through January 17th to be eligible during the 2014 federal fiscal year. While local NRCS offices accept CSP applications year round, NRCS evaluates applications during announced ranking periods.
To be eligible for this year's enrollment, producers must have their applications submitted to NRCS by the closing date, Jan. 17, 2014.
Over 300 Wisconsin farmers enrolled 94,425 acres, in CSP during the 2013 sign-up, pushing the state total over the 800,000 acre mark.
Calvin Sebranek, of Richland County, enrolled the 800,000th acre into the Conservation Stewardship Program in Wisconsin.
To show their support for conservation and the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the Michael Fields Ag Institute joined with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in recognizing this milestone, and honoring Mr. Sebranek for his stewardship of the land at an event in Madison on Dec. 10.
The Sebranek farm is a 400 acre cash grain/beef operation in Richland County.
Contact the local NRCS office to apply for CSP.
For more information, visit www.wi.nrcs.usda.gov , or contact the NRCS office at the USDA Service Center serving the appropriate counties.