Conservation Stewardship Program Renewal Deadline Looms

First wave of CSP contract expirations and renewals rapidly approaching

Lyons, NE - The clock is ticking for farmers and ranchers whose 5 year Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) enrollment contracts expire this year. Re-enrolling land for another 5 years requires a renewal application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the end of the re-enrollment period is rapidly approaching - farmers and ranchers who enrolled land in CSP in 2010 have until September 12, 2014 to initiate the re-enrollment process.

“We have been notified that as of August 21st, 5,328 CSP renewal applications had been processed, out of the approximate 20,000 farms and ranches that are up for potential renewal,” said Traci Bruckner, Senior Policy Associate at the Center for Rural Affairs. “While renewal applications have dramatically increased in the second half of August, we still have a ways to go. And we strongly encourage farmers and ranchers that are eligible for renewal to get to their local NRCS office before the September 12th deadline to file their re-enrollment application paperwork.”

According to Bruckner, the Conservation Stewardship Program is a voluntary stewardship incentives program, administered by NRCS, designed to reward farmers, ranchers, and foresters for maintaining existing conservation, as well as for the adoption of additional conservation measures that provide multiple environmental benefits that run beyond the farm or ranch. This program pays producers for clean water, better soil management, improved habitat, energy efficiency, and other natural resource benefits.

The program rewards advanced conservation across an entire farming or ranching operation and supports the continual improvement of such conservation systems through the contract renewal process. In taking the renewal option, producers agree to continue to integrate conservation activities across their entire operation, as well as undertake additional conservation measures. CSP contracts last for five years, at which time they are eligible for renewal. Producers may be able to renew a contract if they have successfully fulfilled the initial contract and agree to achieve additional conservation objectives.

The approximately 20,000 farmers and ranchers with CSP contracts that will expire this year manage over 20 million acres that can be re-enrolled to preserve and expand upon critical environmental benefits.This is the first set of contract renewals since the program was launched in 2009.

“Renewing an expiring contract is optional, and producers who do not do so can always re-apply and compete for funding in future annual CSP signups,” Bruckner explained. “But there are real benefits to re-enrolling now. The renewal process is non-competitive because producers already received competitively awarded contracts and the re-enrollment process is much simpler than the full application process.”

According to USDA, letters were mailed to all CSP participants with contracts set to expire this year. Re-enrolling farmers and ranchers must sign up for the renewal option by September 12th. After this initial renewal period, eligibility determinations and obligations will be be completed prior to the end of the 2014 calendar year.

“We want to be clear about one potentially confusing fact, the group of contacts that are eligible for this renewal period include both the 2009 and 2010 enrollment classes,” cautioned Bruckner. “There were two different enrollment periods in 2010, the first was the 2009 class and the second was the 2010 class. Both groups have contracts that are set to expire - on September 30th for the 2009 enrollment and on December 31st for the 2010 enrollment. And both will need to initiate the renewal process by September 12th.”

The 2009 CSP enrollment class will first have their current contracts extended through December 31st so that both enrollment classes will expire at the end of 2014, Bruckner explained. The bottom line is, if you got your contract in 2010 and you want to renew it, you have to apply for re-enrollment by September 12th, no exceptions.

“We’ve helped hundreds of farmers and ranchers enroll in CSP, and we’re thrilled at the prospect of seeing those contracts renewed. These farmers and ranchers know first hand how important CSP has been for their farms, ranches, families, communities and for the conservation of the soil and water that they depend upon,” concluded Bruckner. ‘We hope every one of them is able to file a re-enrollment application and we stand ready to help them throughout the process and to help farmers and ranchers who are seeking to enroll in 2015 as well.”