The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced the ranking period cutoff date for the Conservation Stewardship Program is Jan. 13.

Producers interested in the program should submit applications to their NRCS office by the deadline so they can be considered during the first ranking period of the year.

The Conservation Stewardship Program is a voluntary program that encourages agricultural and forestry producers to address resource concerns by undertaking additional conservation activities and improving and maintaining existing conservation systems.

“CSP is a popular conservation program and we expect to receive many applications,” said Karen Woodrich, NRCS state conservationist. “I encourage all farmers who are interested in applying to contact their local NRCS office as soon as possible so they can meet the deadline.”

CSP provides many conservation benefits, including improvement of water and soil quality, wildlife habitat enhancements and adoption of conservation activities that address the effects of climate change. Eligible lands include cropland, pastureland, rangeland, non-industrial private forest land and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe.

A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help potential applicants determine if CSP is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, contract obligations and potential payments. It is available from local NRCS offices and on the CSP website.

As part of the CSP application process, applicants will work with NRCS field personnel to complete the resource inventory using a Conservation Measurement Tool. The tool determines the conservation performance for new and existing conservation activities. The applicant’s conservation performance will be used to determine eligibility, ranking and payments.

Nationwide, in 2010 alone, nearly 21,000 applicants enrolled in CSP, putting additional conservation on 25.2 million acres, an area roughly the size of Kentucky.

More information may be obtained on the NRCS’ CSP website, or by contacting Earl Johnson, district conservationist for Boyd, Carter and Greenup counties, at (606) 833-0180 or (606) 474-5184.

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