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Iowans Asked to Critique Conservation Stewardship Program

PHOTO: North Dakota farmers and ranchers are being asked to weigh in on the enrollment process for this year's Conservation Stewardship Program. CREDIT: USDA
PHOTO: North Dakota farmers and ranchers are being asked to weigh in on the enrollment process for this year's Conservation Stewardship Program. CREDIT: USDA
October 8, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa – Contracts for this year's Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) are being finalized, and Iowans who went through the process are being asked for their critique.

Traci Bruckner, assistant director for rural policy at the Center for Rural Affairs, says they want to hear from all who enrolled because it's critical to determine whether the program is working as envisioned.

"We want to talk with farmers to learn what their experience with the program was, so that we know what's working and what's not working," says Bruckner. "We can use that information then to get the Natural Resources Conservation Service to hopefully make any needed changes to the program to make it work better."

Bruckner says previous feedback from applicants has helped the Center for Rural Affairs develop recommendations and influence changes. It included a farmer from Iowa who had converted his cropland to grassland in the 1990s and, when he enrolled in the CSP, his payment rate was lower than others.

"And that helped us get the Natural Resources Conservation Service to implement what's called 'pastured cropland,' so that he's paid at the same rate. That is an incentive for people to take highly erodible land and put that back into grass and manage it through a grazing system," Bruckner adds.

About 12 million acres are expected to be enrolled in the CSP this year. Bruckner says that's down about 800,000 acres from previous years because of the automatic budget cuts under sequestration.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA