$10 Million Available through NRCS Stewardship Program; Apply by June 5

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) in California has received a historic $10 million to help farmers, ranchers and forestland managers enhance their levels of stewardship and receive payments for doing so. The 2020 application deadline is June 12.

Through CSP, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps farmers, ranchers and forest landowners expand stewardship activities and receive payments for both their existing conservation work and new enhancements they undertake. Enhancements are available to help improve soil health and pollinator habitat, address changing weather patterns, and improve the quality and quantity of rangeland forage. Examples of ranching projects which might be funded include control of invasive plants, including yellow star thistle, patch burning, improving wildlife habitat, advanced grazing management and protection of riparian areas and other sensitive habitat.

CSP contracts run for a term of five years, with an option to renew the contract for another five-year term at its conclusion. Contracts cannot exceed $200,000 for the five-year term, though there is no annual limit so long as the term limit is not exceeded. Contracts begin August 1 and annual stewardship payments begin after October 1.

Unlike in prior years, CSP can now also be utilized to fund stewardship efforts on public lands.

“California has been a leading state in conservation implementation including USDA NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) participation for more than two decades,” said RaeAnn Dubay, assistant state conservationist for Farm Bill programs. “This means we have hundreds of farmers who have successfully completed prior conservation projects and are well positioned to move to the next level of conservation with additional practices through CSP.” Dubay added that in today’s unfortunate pandemic circumstances, this $10 million investment in conservation can also help support rural economies throughout California.

“This is a program especially well-suited to California where many agricultural industries and supporters promote and reward advanced levels of stewardship,” said Dubay. “CSP can help with those additional goals.  It can also help producers meet regulatory requirements or further work they have been doing to promote organic production, forest health and rangeland management.”

While conservation applications are accepted throughout the year, interested producers should at a minimum express interest in applying for CSP to their local NRCS office no later than June 12, with the application and plan completed by the end of the month.

Further details about the CSP program can be found on the NRCS California website, here. For additional information about applying for CSP, please schedule an appointment with your local USDA Service Center (which you can find here), or contact RaeAnn Dubay at (530) 792-5653 or Victor Hernandez at (530) 792-5628.