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Conservation Stewardship Program Deadline Approaches

PHOTO: The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is a voluntary conservation effort that encourages farmers to address resource concerns in new and innovative ways. Those farmers whose contracts are up this year must renew by Sept. 12 to continue with the program. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture.
PHOTO: The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is a voluntary conservation effort that encourages farmers to address resource concerns in new and innovative ways. Those farmers whose contracts are up this year must renew by Sept. 12 to continue with the program. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture.
September 5, 2014

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Time is running out for some Maryland farmers who want to continue receiving federal assistance to improve soil, water, air and habitat quality on their land.

Since the Conservation Stewardship Program was launched five years ago, more than 60 million farm acres nationwide have been enrolled in the program through the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Sophia Kruszewski a policy specialist for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said 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 already are doing.

"So maybe they started doing a little cover cropping but they really want to get more into a full suite of resource-conserving crop rotations," she said. "Maybe they've done some improvements in the way that they're managing their livestock, but they want to start looking at rotational grazing."

The CSP, which was created in the 2008 Farm Bill, has been reauthorized and strengthened with the latest version. The roughly 20,000 farmers with five-year contracts up for renewal must do so by Sept. 12 through the nearest NRCS office.

Kruszewski called the program a win-win for the environment and for farmers, and said the CSP represents a new, forward-thinking vision of American agriculture.

"We're really seeing a strong focus on the need to support farmers 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 said new farmers interested in the program can submit an application to enroll at any time, with NRCS collecting and ranking the applications once per year, typically in February.

More information on CSP is online at nrcs.usda.gov.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MD