Organic and sustainable farmers work hard every day to practice good conservation on their land. They plant cover crops to feed the soil and protect it from erosion. They draw carbon from the atmosphere, protect our waterways, and improve wildlife and pollinator habitat. Many farmers would like to expand their practices to include no- and reduced-tillage systems, rotational grazing, and agroforestry.
But, these important practices, which benefit us all, require time and financial resources to implement. Hard-working farmers should not have to bear those costs alone. Luckily, there are programs available to help.
Right now, farmers across the country can apply for this year’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). This program provides payments to farmers who use new and existing conservation practices. Applications are due in April.
What is the Conservation Stewardship Program?
CSP is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) largest conservation program. It offers whole farm conservation assistance to farmers across the country. Sign-up opportunities are available each year.
The program provides financial assistance for advanced conservation through five-year renewable contracts to implement all kinds of conservation practices, including crop rotations, cover crops, and rotational grazing.
Many organic producers already use practices that are detailed in this Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) program or can benefit from using CSP to provide wildlife habitat, conservation buffers, protect water quality, and much more.
Changes to the program as a result of the 2018 Farm Bill include a higher payment rate for some conservation activities and specific support for organic and transitioning producers. Historically underserved farmers (including BIPOC, veteran, and beginning farmers) receive special consideration.
Yet, few Ohio farmers have taken advantage of this opportunity.
How Do I Sign Up for the Conservation Stewardship Program?
Applying to CSP is simple. By April (exact deadline to be announced), farmers must complete and submit an application by contacting their local local NRCS office.
Importantly, you need to have a farm record number established through the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA).
If you don’t have an FSA number, go to your FSA office to establish a farm record number before submitting your CSP application.
Applicants must also have control of the land for the five-year term of the CSP contract.
After submitting your application, you will work with NRCS to complete the tools to evaluate management systems and natural resources on the operation’s land.
If you plan to apply for CSP, drop us a line and let us know, or if you need assistance implementing conservation practices on your farm, contact one of OEFFA’s sustainable agriculture educators at (614) 947-1647.
The Conservation Stewardship Program and the 2023 Farm Bill
Every 5 years, Congress outlines the scope and funding of CSP and other programs in the Farm Bill. The next 2023 Farm Bill gives us the opportunity to expand and improve CSP so it better meets farmers’ needs.
But, to do that, we need to make sure that our legislators understand how important these conservation programs are.
Members of Congress need to hear how farmers in their communities are using these programs to create healthy soil, protect our waterways, and increase resilience. The best way to get that message across is for farmers to use these programs and share their stories. If your farm has used CSP, please contact us to share your story.
If you aren’t a farmer, your voice also matters. By creating healthy soil and clean water, these programs benefit us all. Please contact us to learn more about how you can help advocate for CSP and other conservation programs in the 2023 Farm Bill.