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Application deadline for 2016 participation is March 31

Feb. 4, 2016—USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Oklahoma plans to add an estimated 450,000 more acres to the rolls of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) during fiscal year 2016. NRCS Oklahoma State Conservationist Gary O’Neill encourages farmers, ranchers and landowners to submit applications by March 31 to their local USDA service center to ensure they are considered for enrollment in 2016.

Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS

Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS

This follows Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement today of $150 million in funding available through CSP nationwide. CSP is USDA’s largest conservation program that helps producers voluntarily improve the health and productivity of private and Tribal working lands through more than 100 different land enhancements.

“The Conservation Stewardship Program is one of our most popular programs with producers because it results in real change on the ground by boosting soil and air quality, conserving clean water and enhancing wildlife habitat,” O’Neill said. “With this investment, we’ll be able to build on the already record number of acres enrolled in USDA’s conservation programs, enabling producers to achieve higher levels of conservation and adopt new and emerging conservation technologies on farms and ranches.”

Participants with existing CSP contracts that will expire on Dec.31, 2016 have the option to renew their contracts for an additional five years if they agree to adopt additional activities to achieve higher levels of conservation on their lands. Applications to renew are also due by March 31.

NRCS also makes CSP available to producers as an additional opportunity to participate in regional landscape-level conservation efforts including the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative and Ogallala Aquifer Initiative.

Funding is available for more than 100 kinds of enhancements nationwide to help participants:

  • Improve soil quality through use of cover crops, conservation crop rotations and other activities that increase soil productivity.
  • Use water wisely and improve water quality through enhancements such as more efficient irrigation systems and weather monitoring.
  • Restore habitat for wildlife and pollinators such as the lesser prairie-chicken and monarch butterfly through the use of better grazing systems and improved plant management.

A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is compatible with their operation. As part of the application process, applicants will work with NRCS field personnel to complete a resource inventory of their land to determine the conservation performance for existing and new conservation activities. The applicant’s conservation performance will be used to determine eligibility, ranking and payments. Through CSP, NRCS in Oklahoma has provided more than $224 million since 2009 in assistance to farmers and ranchers to enhance conservation on more than 5.9 million acres. For more on technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.