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Common Sense On:

Enrolling in the Conservation Stewardship Program

May 27, 2010
By U. S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)
Iowa’s farmers and landowners have a deep connection, commitment and respect for our state’s land, water and resources. To help them meet the challenges of conserving Iowa’s rich natural heritage for future generations, I have long believed that our U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs should reward agricultural producers not just for what they grow, but for how they grow it.

That is why as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I worked so hard to author the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) in the 2002 farm bill and then to improve and strengthen it in the current farm bill, the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008. In order to protect the environment and conserve productive farm land for years to come, CSP provides financial incentives to farmers and ranchers who maintain and adopt sound conservation practices. Earlier this week, USDA announced that the signup period for CSP will begin June 11, 2010 and I encourage producers in Iowa – and across the country - to consider applying for this program.

What is CSP?

CSP is a voluntary program delivered by the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) that financially rewards producers who conserve resources in a comprehensive manner by:

•Adopting and carrying out new, additional conservation activities; and

•Improving, maintaining and managing existing conservation activities.

The program is designed to recognize and reward producers for adopting and maintaining sound stewardship on their land and to provide financial incentives for increasing conservation efforts.

CSP is offered to support conservation on private and tribal agricultural land and non-industrial private forest land in all 50 states and the Caribbean and Pacific Islands areas. The program provides equitable access to all producers, regardless of operation size, crops produced or geographic location.

What are the basic features of CSP?

CSP offers participants five-year contracts that provide annual payments to producers who install and adopt additional conservation activities and improve, maintain and manage existing conservation activities as specified in the CSP contract and conservation stewardship plan.

How do I apply for CSP?

Potential 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

If the program seems right for you and your operation, download and fill out the Conservation Stewardship Program Application available at, and deliver it in to your local NRCS office.

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Senator Tom Harkin



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