One of the most important services farmers provide is the careful, skillful stewardship of the land. I have had the privilege of talking to farmers from all over the country, and am continuously astounded by their keen knowledge of the natural resources they manage. So, I think it's relevant to highlight a great new federal farm program called the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Let me tell you, I'm a fan!
The CSP is designed to protect and improve the environmental quality of lands that are currently being worked by our farmers, and so is designated a "working lands" program. It rewards farmers with payments and technical assistance to create or maintain on-farm environmental management schemes. Several other federal farm programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program, require that farmers and ranchers let their fields lie fallow in order to receive payments.
There are a number of features to the Conservation Stewardship Program's design that make it a better, easier-to-access program than the Conservation Security Program it replaced. (Same acronym, new name - confusing, I know).
Under the new CSP, farmers will be rewarded for tackling a number of issues: soil, water and air quality, watershed management, climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration, biodiversity, habitat preservation, pollinator preservation (go bees!), energy conservation, and much more.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) provides an excellent overview of the program. I encourage you to take a look to better understand how USDA supports farmers and ranchers in their land stewardship endeavors.
For all you farmer readers, the September 30th deadline for the first round of signups is coming up fast. Farmers interested in the program can access NSAC's "Farmers' Guide to the New Conservation Stewardship Program" as a PDF file here.
Congress has offered enough funding to enroll nearly 13 million acres in the CSP each year. It's an exciting, new commitment to conservation at the federal level that will benefit the health of our land, our food and, well, us.