USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has updated the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), a federal program that pays farmers who have a documented record of stewardship to tackle additional conservation practices. Some of NRCS’s changes include
- an emphasis on enhancing soil health,
- a commitment to soliciting input from State Technical Committees,
- a one-time payment for developing a comprehensive conservation plan, and
- support and designated organic funds for organic production and organic transitioning activities.
California received a sizable boost in CSP funding in 2020, totaling $8.2 million, and NRCS anticipates receiving a similar amount in 2021. Organic farmers are well-positioned to take advantage of these funds for several reasons:
- An Organic System Plan is a track record of conservation practices and can give organic farmers a competitive edge in CSP.
- Available CSP enhancements include many common organic practices, such as cover cropping, reduced tillage, advanced irrigation systems, and mulching.
- Participants in CSP can receive an “existing activity payment” of $7.50 per acre per year to maintain existing levels of conservation, which are typically already practiced by organic farmers.
For information on how to apply, contact your local NRCS field office. Acknowledging the conservation benefits of organic farming and ranching, NRCS has created the Organic Farming in California webpage that includes fact sheets, webinars, videos, and information on grants to support organic and transitioning producers.