Monday, June 07, 2010

Conservation Stewardship Program will focus on broad agricultural plans

Last week the Obama administration finalized rules for the long-anticipated Conservation Stewardship Program. The program will "pay farmers for having strong overall conservation plans, rather than focusing federal support on specific conservation practices or plots," Allison Winter of Environment & Energy Daily reports. The program was first authorized in the 2002 farm bill, but has been slow to develop, Winter writes.

There have been years of pent-up demand for this program," Ferd Hoefner of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, told Winter. Other U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs "pay farmers to idle cropland or offer cost assistance for landowners who build fences, terraces or other structures to improve resource protections," Winter writes. These programs will continue, but lawmakers and advocacy groups have said the $1 billion Conservation Stewardship Program should play a larger role.

"To participate in the new program, landowners must submit overall conservation plans that outline methods of animal management, fertilizer use and water management," Winter writes. "USDA will award five-year contracts to farms with the best overall plans, based on scores on criteria set by the department; payments will rise or fall with scores." Operation size, type of crops produced and location will not affect producers' eligibility for the program.(Read more, subscription required)

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