The final rule for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) was recently announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The CSP rule change brings the program more in line with the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The final rule has been crafted using feedback from agricultural stakeholders and others.
“NRCS has prioritized the implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill, including important changes to the Conservation Stewardship Program, which is designed to help farmers put more robust conservation activities in place,” Acting Chief for NRCS Kevin Norton said in a press release.
More than 600 comments were provided on the interim final rule that was published back in November of 2019. One of the most impactful CSP rule changes is the added emphasis on soil health for program participants to achieve program goals. There were also updates made to increase clarity with amendments made to select definitions within the program. Language has also been adjusted for early start waivers to align better with EQIP. Other changes have also been made in regard to locally led conservation. The final rule also allows for more than one contract renewal and extends the ineligibility period for renewal applications not selected.
The CSP rule change also incorporates several updates that were part of the interim final rule. Payment rates for cover crop rotations have been increased and a new payment for advanced grazing management has been introduced. The interim changes that remain also include a one-time payment for developing a comprehensive conservation plan. Specific support for organic production activities is also included in the CSP updates.
The final rule for CSP is available on the Federal Register. CSP helps producers enhance conservation activities on their lands while working towards USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda. The program is offered in al 50 states through continuous signups.