June 4, 2010
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published its final rule on June 3 for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which was authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill. The announcement included an extension of the 2010 application deadline until June 25; it expanded access to the program and increased payment limits.
According to USDA's announcement, eligible lands include cropland, pastureland, rangeland, non-industrial private forest land and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe. The June 3 final rule is effective immediately.
A few of the changes made following the program's first year and as a result of the public comment period on the interim rule follow.
- USDA is implementing a split payment structure, with one payment rate for existing conservation activities and a higher payment rate for new activities.
- The total contract limitation for joint operations has been increased from $200,000 to $400,000, with annual payment limits increased from $40,000 to $80,000 to fairly compensate joint operations that produce environmental benefit levels needed to earn the payments.
- The rule establishes a minimum payment of $1,000 for small-scale producers who were reported as underserved.
- "Pastured cropland" has been added as a new designation with a higher payment than "pastureland" because of the greater income foregone by producers who maintain a grass-based livestock production system on land suitable for cropping.
The final rule is online at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-12699.pdf.