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Published May 17, 2010, 02:45 PM

CSP interest brisk as June 11 date set

FARGO, N.D. — Farmers who want to get in on the latest “batching” period for the Conservation Stewardship Program need to get it done by June 11.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Farmers who want to get in on the latest “batching” period for the Conservation Stewardship Program need to get it done by June 11.

Ron Herr, a state resource conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bismarck, N.D., says interest has been brisk since the May 10 announcement of the batching deadline, set by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Herr says farmers who successfully achieved approval for CSP contracts in the last batching period that ended in September 2009 probably have been good salespeople for the program.

“Those who got contracts shared some of their joy with others,” Herr says, relating conversations with field offices. “It generates a lot of coffee shop talk and interest.”

Herr says there was already a fair amount of interest throughout the state, with producers coming in anticipation of a batching date. Many local NRCS offices in the state have had existing applications since last September, Herr says.

For the September 2009 batching period, there were about 800 farmer and rancher applications for the state, and of those, about 300 were approved. Applications that didn’t compete well enough to be among the 12.7 million acres approved in that batching period can be “rolled over” as an active application for the new batching period.

Applications, assessments

“At the present time, field offices are contacting those individuals, verifying that they have an application in and would like to pursue it,” Herr says. “We’re making an assumption that a high percentage of those would want to move forward.”

It takes only a brief conversation with an NRCS staff person to fill out the application by the June 11 deadline, Herr says.

From there, NRCS staff and the producer meet through the summer to assess their operation and management, which turns into a score. There will be a subsequent announcement of what score levels fit under the 12.7 million-acre national goal for the batching period. The higher the score, the higher the likelihood of acceptance.

Higher scores come from what conservation already is installed and what additional practices and enhancements the producer will be willing to do through the five-year contract period. The payment level is based on the number of points, with dollar payments “all over the board.”

Herr notes that approved contracts can achieve a maximum of $40,000 per year, or $200,000 over the five-year life of the contract. He says there are “several” producers capped out in North Dakota, but couldn’t immediately say how many. An example might be where an individual has a no-till cropping system with a high level of nutrient and pest management, or perhaps is linked to a intense grazing and rotation program for cattle.

The CSP made its debut as a pilot program, then called the “Conservation Security Program,” in 2004 in the state and then again in 2005, 2006 and 2008. It changed to the Conservation Stewardship Program in the 2008 farm bill, and since then, is under a continuous signup with batching periods that were announced in 2009 and now in 2010. Another batching period is expected in 2011 and likely would be the last one under the 2008 farm bill, which expires in 2012. Contracts extend for five years, even though that goes beyond the life of the farm bill.

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