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New conservation stewardship sign-up under way

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service began continuous sign-up for the new Conservation Stewardship Program on Aug. 10 in Minnesota. The first cutoff for ranking purposes is scheduled for Sept. 30, District Conservationist, Russell Kleinschmidt announced.

To learn more about the CSP two meetings have been set up in Wadena County. The first will be held from 1-3 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 26 at the American Legion in Sebeka. The second meeting will be from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursday, Aug. 27 at the Wadena County Courthouse Auditorium.

"The Conservation Stewardship Program changed dramatically in the 2008 Farm Bill," said Kleinschmidt. "NRCS took the time to develop a program that would appeal to our diverse customers and offer them an equal chance to participate. We hope that agricultural and forestry producers in Minnesota take full advantage of the benefits this newly revised program offers."

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill) authorized the Conservation Stewardship Program. Congress renamed and revamped the former Conservation Security Program completely to improve its availability and appeal to agricultural and forestry producers. The Conservation Stewardship Program will be offered in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Pacific and Caribbean areas through continuous sign-ups with announced cut-off application dates for ranking periods. The maximum annual enrollment is capped at nearly 12.8 million acres nationwide.

NRCS administers CSP, a voluntary conservation program designed to encourage agricultural and forestry producers to adopt additional conservation practices and improve, maintain and manage existing ones.

To apply for the newly revamped CSP, individual producers, legal entities and Indian tribes will be encouraged to use a self-screening checklist first to determine whether the new program is suitable for them or their operation. The checklist is available on NRCS Web sites and at NRCS field offices.

After the self-screening, the producer's current and proposed conservation activities are entered in the conservation measurement tool. This tool estimates the level of environmental performance to be achieved by a producer implementing and maintaining conservation activities. The conservation performance estimated by the CMT will be used to rank applications.