Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Conservation Stewardship Program

I have heard and read that the updates to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) was one of the highlights to the 2008 Farm Bill. I must admit that I didn't know much about the CSP until I started hearing/reading that so I looked it up and tried to figure out what it is all about. Like most governmental programs it was a little difficult to figure out, but I did just come across the "Conservation Stewardship Program Fact Sheet #9". You can check out the .PDF file for yourself by clicking on the link.

So, here are some of the "facts":
  • The CSP used to be called the Conservation Security Program ... the name change is probably to make us feel good (I am just kidding).
  • It is a program for farmers that are using or interested in using conservation practices on land that they are currently farming for row crops or pasture ... unlike the Conservation Reserve Program.
  • It seems the new and improved version of the CSP is open to all farmers, not just those in certain watersheds as with the previous version. I would think this is a good thing for farmers out there that are actively farming and working on conservation at the same time.
  • Whether or not you receive a CSP contract (5 year contracts) will depend on how many acres are enrolled and what conservation practices the farm is using and whether or not they are willing to do more. I'm still not totally clear on what kind of conservation practices they are talking about, but I'm sure that is because I just don't know enough about the program (old or new).
  • The amount of the CSP payment will take into account three factors. 1) What are the environmental benefits. 2) What costs does the farmer have because of the measures. 3) Will there be some income lost by the farmer.
  • You will be happy to know that the payments have been capped at $40,000 per year (per farm) instead of the "virtually unlimited payments" of other programs. (I'm being a little tongue-in-check here, but they did say those "virtually unlimited payments" can go to millionaires and corporations)
So, there you have it. Facts from the fact sheet ... with a few comments along the way. Like I said, I don't know too much about this program other than the fact that some people felt like it was one of the best parts of the Farm Bill for conservation minded farmers. I would love to hear from someone that knows more about it, or anyone else interested in agriculture policy!


Anonymous said...

You should contact your local USDA NRCS (natural resource conservation services) for more information regarding how this program and many other programs in the new Farm Bill can help your land! I'm an intern at the California NRCS (specifically the Davis office) and came by your blog when researching Farm Bill blog articles. Couldn't help but leave a little comment.

-Carissa Lopez

Rich said...

"...the CSP payment will take into account three factors. 1) What are the environmental benefits. 2) What costs does the farmer have because of the measures. 3) Will there be some income lost by the farmer..."

This portion raises a couple of questions for me.

How can environmental benefits be easily translated into a dollar amount?

Would the CSP payment be reduced if costs go down? Ideas like applying fertilizers more efficiently, or reducing pesticide and herbicide use through crop rotations usually reduces costs. Why would costs necessarily go up?

If the CSP payment is increased due to lower income, will the farmer actually receive a payment if his income goes? Shouldn't a farmer's income go up if soil erosion is reduced, fertilizer or manure is applied more efficiently, soil fertility and tilth is improved, and soil moisture is increased? What is the advantage of enrolling in a government program with the promise of a future payment instead of just implementing the techniques on my own and avoiding all the red-tape? I would rather increase the fertility and the income of my farm by utilizing these techniques on my own without enrolling in a government program (or being forced to repay all the payments in the future if circumstances changed as they did when Ethan bought out the CRP contract on his farm).


I think the CSP program is a good start on something that the USDA has been missing for a long time. So much money has been spent on farms that were out of shape and needed help (CRP, EQIP, EWP, etc). If you were a farmer who was doing a good job, you were pretty much out of luck on receiving any $ other than LDP's or counter cyclical payments. I worked for USDA NRCS during the limited sign-ups when it was the Conservation Security Program, and am glad to see it being opened up to all. The program is still in it's infant stage, so it is going to be some time before it is fine tuned and best-fitted for all producers.

In response to Rich's comments, we need to remember that these payments are not considered cost-share payments, they are incentive payments. They are not paying the producer a % of their implementation costs, they are simply saying here is some incentive for doing an environmentally sound practice. It is an effort to keep producers doing the right thing. It costs money to farm efficiently, whether it be purchasing VRT equipment, soil testing more frequently, reclaiming waste oil, fallowing crop ground, etc.

TheBereangirl said...

I don't understand why farmers want anything to do with govermental programs like this. Why are the Federal and State governments involved with giving farmers incentives to be good (goverment controlled) farmers? If you give them an inch, then they will take acres. There are crappy people in every profession, are farmers exempt from this fact? Shouldn't a good farmer always be intetested in being a better farmer, no goverment handout (with strings attached) required? I find it sad that it is necessary for our government to regulate farming and industry due to mankind's propensity for greed and laziness. What happened to common sense and being a good neighbor? I find it ironic that the very agency that regulates our industries, can't regulate themselves. It's late, I think I'm starting to ramble - good night : )

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