Monday, February 16, 2015

USDA improves conservation program, does poor job telling story, writer says; signups due Feb. 27

Department of Agriculture officials have improved the federal Conservation Stewardship Program, which offers $100 million to landowners who take steps to conserve soil and other natural resources, but is doing a poor job of telling farmers about it, with a Feb. 27 signup deadline approaching, Bruce Knight writes for Agri-Pulse.

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service "highlighted some pilot CSP initiatives that focus on providing habitat for at-risk species, such as the sage grouse and the lesser prairie chicken, or focus on conserving water and improving water quality in the Ogalala Aquifer.  There is also a longleaf pine conservation effort in Southern states," Knight reports. "Those are the ones the agency is talking about because of its political priorities. But what excites me are the enhancements that embrace modern precision agriculture technology, soil health, cover crops and fertilizer management, which are much improved."

"The changes NRCS has made are definitely a step in the right direction, and I'd like to be sure that everyone knows about them," Knight writes. "It's almost like NRCS is trying to keep this signup and all its improvements a secret.  As a farmer, if you have looked at CSP in the past and found it inflexible or a poor match for your needs, this may be the time to give it a new look.  With tough grain prices on the horizon, CSP payments could be what it takes to keep cover crops and other conservation innovations in your rotation."

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