Reminder to Oklahoma Producers of Sign-Up for Conservation Stewardship Program
STILLWATER – Whether it’s setting conservation and management goals or striving to meet those you already have for your Oklahoma operation, there’s a great chance that the staff of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can help. One way to do so is through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
However, NRCS reminds Oklahoma producers that the next deadline for CSP applications to be considered for funding this year is just days away, May 10, 2019.
Matt Braun farms with his father near Hobart in southwestern Oklahoma. They couldn’t be more pleased with the program and Matt talked about that on Conservation Day at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City.
Theirs is primarily a wheat and cattle operation, but they also raise cotton and milo.
The Brauns had an interest in making some changes and CSP was just the right program to nudge that into reality.
”We were wanting to start no-till and get more involved in conservation and that kind of incentivized us and helped us implement the practices that we needed,” Braun said. “Now I’m on my second CSP contract.”
Their first CSP contract allowed them some funding to help implement cover crops and other conservation practices they had seen the benefits of through other producers.
“We just kind of picked it up and ran with it from there,” he said. “Basically by being incentivized to implement those practices through CSP, it’s made us a better operation. So we see the value of conservation and doing things the right way.”
Gary O’Neill, NRCS state conservationist, said, “There are a lot of producers who are considering making changes to their operations, but those producers just need someone to walk alongside them for a while and point them in the particular direction of conservation that they want to go, just like the Brauns, and this program can do that.”
Over the course of the 2014 Farm Bill, 4045 CSP contracts were obligated on 4,212,000 acres in Oklahoma, according to NRCS. Payments to date on these contracts total over $155,000,000.
Nationally, USDA’s NRCS plans to invest up to $700 million for new enrollments and contract extensions in fiscal year 2019. The 2018 Farm Bill made several changes to this critical conservation program, which helps agricultural producers take the conservation activities on their farm or ranch to the next level.
“CSP continues to be a very effective tool for private landowners working to achieve their conservation and management goals,” NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr said. “It is the largest conservation program in the United States with more than 70 million acres of productive agricultural and forest land enrolled.”
While applications are accepted throughout the year, interested Oklahoma producers should submit applications to their local NRCS office by May 10, 2019, to ensure their applications are considered for 2019 funding.
It’s important to remember that the 2018 Farm Bill authorizes NRCS to accept new CSP enrollments from now until 2023, and it makes some important improvements to the program. These updates include:
NRCS now enrolls eligible, high ranking applications based on dollars rather than acres. For fiscal 2019, NRCS can spend up to $700 million in the program, which covers part of the cost for producers implementing new conservation activities and maintaining their existing activities.
Higher payment rates are now available for certain conservation activities, including cover crops and resource conserving crop rotations.
CSP now provides specific support for organic and for transitioning to organic production activities and a special grassland conservation initiative for certain producers who have maintained cropland base acres.Oklahoma producers should know that CSP provides many benefits including increased crop yields, decreased inputs, wildlife habitat improvements and increased resilience to weather extremes. CSP is for working lands including cropland, pastureland, rangeland, nonindustrial private forest land and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe.