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USDA taking applications for its Natural Resources Conservation Service

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is accepting applications to an updated version of its conservation program.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is taking applications for the program, which is the largest conservation program in the country.

The large-scale concentrated effort includes 80 million acres of fertile agricultural and forest land, and serves to improve and save natural resources.

NRCS offices began processing conservation stewardship program (CSP) applications in November, with the first batching period culminating on Feb. 3. Applications are available and can be submitted to NRCS at local USDA Service Centers.

Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners can earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and growing conservation activities like covering crops, ecologically-based pest management, irrigation management, pollinator and beneficial insect habitat, and prescribed grazing management, all while maintaining active agricultural production on their land.

CSP also encourages the incorporating cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques to those who take part in the service.

“Simply put, the Conservation Stewardship Program is better,” said Nevada NRCS State Conservationist Ray Dotson. “If farmers and ranchers give CSP a chance, they just might like what they see.”

By addressing NRCS producer and stakeholder input calling for more flexibility to address local resource issues, the effort will allow the program to utilize input from farmers, ranchers and partners in State Technical committees and local work groups to educate and expand conservation plans under the program.

The input will allow producers to be more prepared to apply for the program, as they will be aware of the local ranking priorities and targeted resource concerns ahead of time.

NRCS has made several updates to the program, which in turn allows producers the ability to better evaluate their conservation options and the benefits to their operations and natural resources.

“The implementation of new methods and software for evaluating applications will help producers determine if they are or are not meeting stewardship thresholds, in turn allowing them to pick practices and enhancements that better fit their conservation goals and objectives,” the USDA said in a statement.

The CSP application software updates also give producers potential payment scenarios for conservation practices earlier in the application process.

CSP is for producers who have already established themselves as conservation stewards, helping them to deliver multiple conservation benefits on working lands, including improved water and soil quality and enhanced wildlife habitat.

Those interested in other opportunities the updated CSP offers, can find information, including national and state ranking questions and enhancement descriptions, on the new CSP web portal at www.nrcs.usda.gov/csp

Contact reporter Mick Akers at makers@pvtimes.com. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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