Conservation Stewardship Program FY 2018

On January 19, 2018, The U.S .Dept of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service announced that farmers have until March 2, 2018 to submit an initial FY 2018 application for the nation's largest working lands program, the Conservation Stewardship Program.  More that 72 million acres across the country - roughly 8 percent of all agricultural land - and more than 300,000 acres in Ohio are currently enrolled in whole-farm conservation contracts.  The significant amount of working lands already enrolled in CSP and the fact that in recent years CSP has had to turn away many qualified applicants, is evidence of the voluntary conservation program's enormous popularity.

During 2018 signup0 period, NRCS will enroll an additional 10 million acres of cropland, pastureland, rangeland and forestland in CSP.  Interested farmers and ranchers must submit their applications by March 2 in order to be considered for this year's sign up.  Current participants whose initial contracts are set to expire at the end of the year will also have the opportunity to renew their contracts for an additional five year period; USDA will announce a separate deadline for renewals in the coming weeks.

"CSP is an important conservation option for working lands.  The program helps farmers invest in soil, air and water quality, conservation and in building wildlife habitats," said Amalie Lipstreu, Policy Program Coordinator at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.  "CSP builds on existing good practices and provides the tools and resources needed for farmers to be the best stewards of the land they can be.  The 2018 sign-up window is a critical opportunity for Ohio farmers to build their environmental and economic resiliency through comprehensive conservation efforts and planned conservation activities."  If applicants meet acceptable conservation levels, they will be ranked.  NRCS works down through the list of eligible applicants until acreage allocated to the state for the year runs out.  

"Participating in CSP was a no-brainer," said OEFFA member Kyle Sharp of Sharp Family Farms in Fairfield County.  "The program basically rewards us for practices we wanted to implement anyway to improve the farm:  He cites the flexibility of the program as important.  "The more practices you implement, the more your annual payment grows."  Just looking through all of the conservation options was beneficial for Kyle.  "I got some ideas on things we could do that I never would have thought of on my own."

While applicants can apply for CSP anytime throughout the year, OEFFA urges interested producers to submit application before the March 2 deadline to enrure that they are considered for enrollment in FY 2018.

The 2018 CSP is especially significant because it is the final enrollment opportunity under the authority provided by the 2014 Farm Bill, which is set to expire September 30, 2018.

"OEFFA members will be watching the farm bill process this year to see if Congress achnowledges the critical role that CSP and other conservation programs have played in increasing farm sustainability," said Lipstreu.  "It is as important now as it was when the farm bill was created after the Dust Bowl that we invest in our natural resources on working farms."

Article provided by Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.