The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is opening its Conservation Stewardship Program for new enrollments in 2014. Through Jan. 17, producers interested in participating in the program can submit applications to their local NRCS service center.

Although applications are accepted all year, farmers, ranchers and forestland owners interested in CSP should submit applications to their local NRCS office to ensure they are considered for this year’s funding.

The CSP is a conservation program that supports land managers as they work to improve both their agricultural production and provide valuable conservation benefits, including cleaner and more abundant water, healthier soils and better wildlife habitat.

“Through the Conservation Stewardship Program, farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners are going the extra mile to conserve our nation’s resources,” NRCS Chief Jason Weller said. “Through their conservation actions, they are ensuring that their operations are more productive and sustainable over the long run.”

The program emphasizes a higher level of management to protect natural resources. Producers can earn higher payments for adopting enhancements that achieve a high level of performance in conserving the natural resources on their land. In CSP, producers install conservation enhancements to make positive changes in soil quality, soil erosion, water quality, air quality, plant resources, animal resources and energy.

Through the Conservation Stewardship program, farmers, ranchers and foresters have been able to use GPS-guided systems to target and manage pesticide application or manage irrigation water application based on site conditions within the field. The program has also retrofitted water facilities to prevent bats and bird species from being trapped, enhanced grazing management to improve wildlife habitat, installed variable frequency drive electric motors to conserve energy, and more.

A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, stewardship threshold requirements and payment types.

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