Lyons, Nebraska - Once this years Conservation Stewardship Program contracts are finalized, the program will have reached a total of approximately 63 million acres enrolled nationally. Helping about 48,000 farmers and ranchers across the country increase their conservation on working lands.
“It is crucial that we learn from the farmers and ranchers who are using the program if it is working as we envisioned,” noted Traci Bruckner, Assistant Director for Rural Policy at the Center for Rural Affairs. “Previous applicants that we’ve heard from helped us develop recommendations and influence the Natural Resources Conservation Service to make positive changes for the program so that it better reflects and values farmers’ and ranchers’ conservation efforts.”
According to Bruckner, the program has sought to enroll roughly 12.8 million acres each year. Automatic budget cuts, known as "sequestration," that Congress adopted earlier this year will, however, lower expectations for future sign-ups by nearly 800,000 acres annually, to just over 12 million acres. The competition for contracts was stiff with full funding, and budget cuts will make it even more competitive.
“At the Center for Rural Affairs, we want to ensure that the farmers and ranchers with the best stewardship on their working farm or ranch lands rank among the top,” Bruckner continued. "That’s why we created our Farm Bill Helpline - (402) 687-2100 - so farmers and ranchers can contact us there and we can learn from their experiences with the program application process as well as assist new applicants.”
“If you just signed up during this most recent round, give us a call and share your CSP story. Call us even if you signed up in one of the earlier rounds,” Bruckner added. “We want to learn from your experience with the Conservation Measurement Tool, which determines eligibility, ranking and ultimately your payments. It is vitally important for us to hear from farmers and ranchers who have applied and used the program so we understand what is working, what is not working, and if there are problems that need to be fixed.”
Bruckner also reminded potential applicants that if they did not sign-up during this most recent round, the program offers a continuous sign-up process and applications made now will be considered in the next ranking pool.