April 29, 2019
MADISON, Wis. – The deadline for farmers to apply for the country's largest working lands conservation program is approaching fast.
The program offers financial support to farmers who keep their land healthy through conservation practices, including cover cropping and water irrigation management.
Farmers who are interested in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) are encouraged to sign up by May 10 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) website or at their local offices.
"This kind of conservation is important not only to farmers in the here and now and making sure that they get financial compensation for doing the right things for society, but it's important for future farmers who actually will still have soil on which to farm," says Margaret Krome, policy director at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute.
Krome says farmers don't need all the details for their conservation plan when they sign up – the important thing is to get enrolled before the deadline.
The NRCS plans to invest more than $700 million in the program during 2019.
Krome says public pushback saved the CSP when lawmakers proposed to remove it from the 2018 Farm Bill.
Deirdre Birmingham, co-owner of The Cider Farm in Mineral Point in southern Wisconsin, says the program has helped her do things such as remove invasive garlic mustard and turn pruning into mulch.
She says there was a feeling among farmers before this program that it made more economic sense to sap the land of nutrients and get assistance from that point, which didn't seem fair to farmers who were being good land stewards.
"In steps the Conservation Stewardship Program, which does reward people for those practices and helps them do more,” Birmingham states. “So it definitely helps move people in the positive direction that they were on, as well as engage people in that direction to begin with."
Birmingham also notes the program is easy to enroll in and she received a lot of guidance from local NRCS officials.
"They definitely make it as easy as possible and really, truly desire to see growers implementing these various practices and making it more affordable for them to do so," she stresses.