Deadlines Approaching for Farm Program Sign-Ups

As we approach the spring and the planting season, it is a good idea to take a long, hard look at the various programs available for assistance and their respective deadlines.  In chronological order:

Conservation Stewardship Program — The deadline for CSP sign-up is extended to Friday, March 13, 2015.  We’ve previously discussed CSP and the benefits that may accrue to applicants.  If you are interested, head over to your local NRCS office to complete the initial two-page application.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program — EQIP has rolling deadlines of March 20, April 17, and May 15.  EQIP is a voluntary working lands program offering farmers and ranchers cost-share funding and technical assistance.  EQIP now provides up to a 50% cost-share for beginning and limited resource farmers.  EQIP can help fund a number of projects, including high tunnels, organic conservation, and other conservation practices.  Like CSP, just head over to your local NRCS office for more information as it varies state by state.

Organic Production Survey — The survey is due April 3, 2015.  The survey is specifically for the organic sector, to determine growth, trends, and challenges.  The survey may be taken electronically, so feel free to review our previous article and let the USDA know what you think.


Conservation Stewardship Program Sign-Ups Ongoing

If you are interested in the Conservation Stewardship Program for 2015, you have until February 27, 2015 to submit your initial application to your local NRCS office.  If you submit your application after February 27, 2015, your application will be considered in 2016.

What is the Conservation Stewardship Program?  It is a working lands program that rewards farmers and ranchers for conservation and environmental benefits they produce.  NRCS has a self-screening checklist available to help you determine if the program is suitable for your operation.

CSP is a competitive program that aims to achieve environmental benefits by scoring and then financially rewarding CSP applicants with the highest conservation performance outcomes, based on current and planned future conservation activities. First you apply to see if you are eligible, then NRCS scores your current performance and future plans. If you already meet acceptable conservation levels, then you compete in a ranking process that determines who will receive contracts. Contracts are awarded to those offering the highest level of environmental benefits, with NRCS working down through the list of eligible applicants until acreage allocated to the particular state for that particular year runs out. At the national level in most years approximately twice as many farmers apply as get into the program in a given year, though there is some variation by state to that two to one ratio.

Signing up is simple.  Head over to your local NRCS office and submit the initial application, which is a simple form.

Keep in mind that if you are applying as an entity (that is, a business), you must have a DUNS number  (click here on information on how to obtain a DUNS number).  Additionally, the entity will need to register with the System for Award Management.  If you are applying as an individual and use your social security number as your Employer Identification Number (EIN), you do not need a DUNS number or register with SAM.

At this time, NRCS has not published updated information for the fiscal year 2015 sign-up, such as which enhancements are available to choose among or corresponding environmental benefit score.  But don’t let that stop you from contacting your local NRCS office if you are interested.

Conservation Stewardship Program sign-up extended

The Conservation Stewardship Program is extending the sign-up period to February 7, 2014.  But for many, the question remains: what is the Conservation Stewardship Program?

The Program, or CSP, is run by the National Resource Conservation Service.  CSP is a voluntary program that encourages resource conservation via: (1) undertaking additional conservation activities, and (2) improving or maintaining existing conservation activities.  Unlike some programs, CSP is available to a producer regardless of the size of the operation or crops produced.

Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, prairie land, improved pastureland, rangeland, nonindustrial private forest land, and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe.

Additionally, the higher the conservation performance, the higher the payment for participation in CSP.  There may be more than one CSP contract at any given time.  However, payments are capped at $40,000 in any year and not more than $200,000 in any five year period.  Those receiving payments may be individuals, legal entities (e.g. S-Corp, LLC etc.), joint operations, or Indian tribes.  The contract limit (the amount paid for a contract) is the same as the payment limit above, except joint operations which have an $80,000 per year contract limit and $400,000 over the term of the contract period.

Payment comes in two forms: the first, an annual payment for instituting or maintaining a conservation practice.  The second is a supplemental payment for instituting a a resourcing conserving crop rotation.

More information can be found on this Fact Sheet about CSP from NRCS.  If you are curious about whether CSP is a program that may work in your operation, this checklist is a good resource.  We’re also here to answer any questions you may have so feel free to contact us!