The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is designed to help farmers and ranchers maintain natural resources and adopt conservation practices on agricultural land. Participants earn performance-based payments for these practices, such as cover cropping, highly diversified crop rotations, and managed rotational grazing.
Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), CSP also provides farmers and ranchers technical assistance to actively manage existing conservation activities, and to implement additional conservation activities on land in agricultural production.
CSP has been criticized for a lack of transparency and a lack of accessibility for small and beginning farmers, as well as not appropriately rewarding environmental benefits. But as a “refresh” of the program is under way, beginning in 2016, New England Farmers Union and its partners see a chance to improve the program for farmers in the region.
Given that CSP is the nation’s largest working lands conservation program, with more than 60 million acres of productive land enrolled, this overhaul provides a critical opportunity to ensure that the program works for the farmers it was designed to support. Stay tuned as the process unfolds to see how farmers can weigh in.
In the meantime, for more information about CSP and the refresh, please contact New England Farmers Union and see an in-depth blog post from our partners at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.