The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers producers technical and financial assistance to help them implement Best Management Practices (BMPs) on their operations. NRCS staff work with farmers, ranchers, and forest land managers to develop a conservation plan to address natural resource concerns. Depending on the producer’s objectives, these plans can include conservation practices like improved nutrient management and water quality, increased water-use efficiency, erosion control and improving soil conditions, and improving wildlife habitat. One of their largest programs is the Conservation Stewardship Program, or CSP.
What is the CSP?
The CSP is for producers who have already been implementing conservation practices on their operations and want to enhance these efforts. It offers funds to help producers maintain existing practices, enhance practices, and adopt new ones to address additional resource concerns.
Some examples of conservation practices funded by the CSP for different types of operations include:
- Pasturelands – Forage testing for improved harvesting methods and hay quality, or clipping (mowing) mature forages to set back vegetative growth for improved forage quality
- Croplands – Reduced tillage to improve soil conditions, planting a multi-species mix of cover crops, irrigation enhancements to improve water-use efficiency, and using precision pesticide application techniques to reduce the risk of pesticides in surface water
- Forestry – Invasive species management on forested lands to improve wildlife habitat, and creating tree snags to provide shelter for wildlife
Interested producers meet one-on-one with a local NRCS conservation planner. The planner will evaluate the current management system and work with the producer to choose conservation activities and enhancements based on the producer’s management objectives. CSP contracts are for 5 years, and applications are accepted year-round. Your local NRCS staff members will provide current information on payment rates and scheduling as well as how and when applications are evaluated.
For more information about the CSP and other NRCS programs such as EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) contact your local NRCS Service Center. We have nine Service Centers throughout the Florida Panhandle (NRCS Area 1).
In addition to NRCS, both the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and the Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD) offer financial assistance to producers in our region for implementing BMPs on-farm. The NWFWMD currently focuses its BMP funding in the Jackson Blue Springs Basin. For more information about available assistance through these two agencies, contact your local FDACS field staff and the NWFWMD Agriculture Team.