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Arkansas’ Conservation Stewardship Program deadline June 11

From the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

-- Arkansas producers are encouraged to apply for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Stewardship Program. Authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, CSP offers payments to producers who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and who agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship.

Eligible lands include cropland, pastureland, rangeland and non-industrial forestland. The deadline to be considered for the next ranking and funding period is June 11.

David Long, private lands coordinator with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission says that the program rewards farm producers for addressing resource concerns, including wildlife.

“Farmers can also receive enhancement practice payments such as: extending riparian forest buffers, patch burning pastures, creating shallow water habitat, establishing native grasses and legumes in 15 percent or more of their pastures, and grazing management to improve wildlife habitat,” he said. “Farmers who extend filter strips and field borders, establish pollinator habitat, utilize prescribed burning, forest stand improvement, deferring crop production on temporary and seasonal wetlands, and flooding harvested grain fields, all provide significant wildlife benefits are eligible for payments.”

Under the interim final rule published July 29, 2009, eligible producers may submit an application to enroll eligible land in CSP on a continuous basis. Producers are encouraged to apply for CSP now to ensure their applications will be considered during the next funding and ranking period. However, they can make their final decision to participate in the program once the CSP final rule is issued. The final rule will establish the policies and procedures for the program.

CSP offers payments for adding conservation practices and maintaining and managing existing conservation practices, Long says. “Farmers need to know that installing conservation practices like filter strips, quail buffers, riparian forest buffers and other practices under the FSA’s Continuous Conservation Reserve Program will increase their competitiveness in CSP in the future,” Long explained. “Coupling CSP with the Conservation Reserve Program which provides yearly rental payments for 10 to 15 years along with other significant incentives can significantly improve our farm environment at the same time it helps increase and stabilize farm income,” he added.

Payments are based on a complex ranking system using existing conservation practices maintained along with any new enhancement practices implemented and are estimated to range from $12 to $22 per acre of cropland, nonindustrial private forestland $6 to $12 per acre and pastureland at $7 to $14 per acre. These payments may be higher or lower with the next round of CSP funding.

Applicants are encouraged to use the CSP self-screening checklist to determine if the new program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, contract obligations and potential payments. It is available from local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service offices or on the NRCS Web site at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_csp/csp.html.

Arkansas specific information is available on the Arkansas NRCS Web site at www.ar.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_csp_2010.html. For more information about CSP, visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_csp/csp.html.

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