Farm Conservation Program Deadline Nears
LANSING, Mich. - Since the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) was launched five years ago, more than 60 million acres of farmland across the U.S. have been enrolled in the program through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). But time is running out for some Michigan farmers who want to continue receiving federal assistance via the CSP to improve soil, water, air and habitat quality on their land.
Sophia Kruszewski, policy specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, says the CSP is unique in that it isn't about helping farmers avoid environmental harm, but rather about enhancing and improving what conservation-minded farmers are already doing.
"Maybe they started doing a little cover cropping but they really want to get more into a full suite of resource-conserving crop rotations," explains Kruszewski. "Maybe they've done some improvements in the way they're managing their livestock, but they want to start looking at rotational grazing."
Created in the 2008 Farm Bill, the latest version of the CSP has been reauthorized and strengthened, but the 20,000 farmers with five-year contracts up for renewal must do so by September 12th through the nearest NRCS office.
Kruszewski calls the program a win-win for the environment and for farmers, and says the CSP represents a new, forward-thinking vision of American agriculture.
"We're really seeing a strong focus on the need to support farmers to not only to have productive, viable farms and ranches, but also to be able to work those farms with an eye toward natural-resource conservation."
Kruszewski says new farmers interested in the program can submit an application to enroll at any time, with the NRCS collecting and ranking the applications once per year, typically in February.