Thanks to our friends at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), of which CalCAN is a member, for this information.
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) offers financial and technical assistance to support farmers and ranchers’ existing conservation practices and the expansion of these practices on their land.
CSP is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) largest conservation program and offers whole farm, comprehensive conservation assistance through five-year contracts on all types of land in agricultural production. CSP works for growers of all scales. Payment is calculated on a whole farm, per-acre basis – and there is a minimum annual payment of $1,500/farm. (The maximum annual payment is $40,000). CSP has funding set aside for farmers of color, veteran farmers, beginning farmers, and organic/transitioning farmers – so farmers in any of these groups may be more likely to have their applications funded.
The application for California producers is March 26, 2021, so be sure to get your application started now.
What conservation practices does CSP support?
CSP enhancements include cover crops, “resource conserving crop rotations” (for example, a crop rotation plan which includes a perennial grass or legume), rotational grazing, silvopasture, pollinator habitat, filter and buffer strips, improvements to streams and ponds, biochar production, no-till and reduced-tillage systems, and more. NRCS is also offering an increased payment rate to farmers planting cover crops or resource conserving crop rotations to build soil health.
Farmers enrolled in CSP get increased support for diversified complex systems. The more complex your conservation plan, that is, the more conservation practices you take on, the higher your payment will be. Payments are also based on differing land uses, so if you have both cropland and pasture as part of your operation, your payment is increased by your conservation efforts on each land-use type.
How it works:
- Call or email your local NRCS office to get the 4-page initial application to start the process. You can find your local NRCS office here: bit.ly/findNRCS. Farmers will need to have an FSA farm number and basic information about their operation handy. Don’t have an FSA number for your farm yet? This website walks you through the steps to get set up with your local Farm Service Agency: https://newfarmers.usda.gov/first-steps.
- Work with your NRCS agent using a computerized tool to analyze your farm’s eligibility for CSP, based on your current management system and the natural resources on your land. There are stewardship threshold requirements to participate in CSP.
- If you are eligible for the program, you will work with an NRCS conservation planner to create a conservation plan for your farm.
- Your plan will be ranked against other requests for funding. If you score highly, you will be offered a contract (and funding). California producers should find out if they are eligible for the program in late April, 2021.
- You will work with NRCS to carry out your contract that will begin by July 30, 2021.