The Conservation Security Program: Rewarding Farmers Who Practice Good Conservation
Posted: February 4, 2005
CSP is authorized by the 2002 Farm Bill and administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The program provides incentive payments to producers with a history of land stewardship to continue and expand their conservation efforts.
Here are some key points about the program:
- The CSP is offered in watersheds, as opposed to counties. A watershed is the land area that drains to a water body, such as a stream, river, or lake. Because watersheds are natural boundaries, they are a useful way to effectively address common natural resource issues.
- Each year the CSP is only available to producers in certain priority watersheds. In 2004, producers in the Raystown Watershed, in south central Pennsylvania had an opportunity to sign-up for CSP. This year, producers in the Lower Susquehanna-Swatara watershed, Schuylkill watershed, and the Chester-Sassafras Watershed will have an opportunity to sign-up. A map of Pennsylvania’s 2005 CSP watersheds is available on the Web at: http://www.pa.nrcs.usda.gov/ . The sign-up period has not been announced yet, but it could begin as early as March 2005.
- The CSP program is designed to reach every watershed across the country within the next 6 years. If you’re not in a CSP watershed this year, continue documenting your conservation efforts, learn more about the CSP program, and be as prepared as possible when CSP comes to your watershed.
- It is your responsibility to conduct a self-assessment of your conservation efforts. For some programs in the past, NRCS accepted and ranked applications and determined eligibility. The CSP requires you to determine your own eligibility based on answers to questions about your farming operation. Complete the CSP Self-Assessment Workbook - available at your local NRCS office or on the Web at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp/
- Consider enrolling part of your operation in CSP. You can qualify for CSP even if you have just one field, pasture, or orchard that meets the designated standards. While payments might be low for a CSP contract involving just a few acres, once you’re enrolled you may be able to increase payments by adding more acres and conservation enhancements. Land to be enrolled in CSP must meet soil and water quality standards to be eligible, so consider how much of your land might qualify.
- CSP rewards producers who are practicing and documenting conservation efforts. Therefore, recordkeeping is a must! After completing the CSP Self- Assessment Workbook start gathering the records you’ll need to document conservation work on your farm. NRCS will ask you for documentation of tillage practices, crop rotations, soil testing, nutrient and pesticide applications.
To learn more about the CSP contact your local NRCS office or visit the Pennsylvania NRCS Web Site at: http://www.pa.nrcs.usda.gov/.
Charles Abdalla, Agricultural and Environmental Economics and Alyssa Dodd, Senior Extension Associate, Agricultural Environmental Policy Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology