Farmers and ranchers who enrolled in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) in 2010 have until September 12 to re-enroll their farms for another five years by submitting a renewal application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation (NRCS).

CSP is a comprehensive working lands conservation program that provides technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers to actively manage and maintain existing conservation systems and to implement additional conservation activities on land in crop and livestock production. Through CSP, participants take steps to improve soil, water, air, and habitat quality, and address water quantity and energy conservation issues.

CSP rewards advanced conservation across an entire farming 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.  This is the first wave of contract renewals since the program was launched in 2009.  There are approximately 20,000 farmers and ranchers with CSP contracts that will expire this year, totaling over 20 million acres that can be re-enrolled to preserve and expand upon critical environmental benefits.

It Pays to Renew

It is optional to renew an expiring contract, and participants who do not re-enroll can always re-apply and compete for funding in future annual CSP signups.  However, there is significant benefit to renewing now: the process for renewing is non-competitive (since producers already received competitively awarded contracts) and much simpler than re-applying through the competitive process later, and participants will avoid any gaps in their CSP payments that would otherwise occur.

NRCS mailed letters to all CSP participants with contracts that are set to expire this year.  Eligible contract holders must sign up for the renewal option by September 12.  Following this initial renewal period, eligibility determinations and obligations will be completed in the first quarter of fiscal year 2015 (October – December 2014).

There were two different enrollment periods in 2010.  The first was actually the 2009 sign-up class and the second the 2010 class.  The first group has contracts set to expire on September 30, 2014 and the second group has contracts that will expire on December 31, 2014.  Farmers in the 2009 sign-up class will first extend their current contracts through December 31, 2014 so that both 2010 enrollment classes will now expire at the end of the calendar year.  Renewal contracts will go into effect January 1, 2015.

The renewal process is fairly simple.  Producers can contact their local NRCS office with any questions about the renewal process.

Not too Soon to Apply for 2015 New Enrollment

The regular CSP enrollment period for 2015 for new entrants into the program is to occur this winter.  At that time, 10 million new acres will be added to the program.  Farmers and ranchers who have not yet participated in CSP will have the chance to enroll at that time.

CSP has a continual application process, so farmers can submit their application to enroll now or at any time.  The cutoff date for 2015 applications will be announced sometime this fall, and the cut-off for applications will likely be fairly early in calendar year 2015.  Farmers can ensure they do not miss the cutoff by submitting an application this summer or fall.