The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications from Texas agricultural landowners for the next Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) funding cycle that ends on June 11, 2010. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis and those not received by June 11 will be considered for funding after Oct. 1, 2010.

“CSP supports ongoing stewardship of private agricultural lands by providing payments for maintaining and enhancing natural resources,” said Don Gohmert, NRCS state conservationist for Texas.

Congress limited enrollment for CSP nationally at 12.7 million acres per year. Applicants will compete within state-identified ranking pools, which in Texas are water quantity, soil erosion, plant health and condition, water quality, and animal health.

Producers are encouraged to apply for CSP now to ensure their applications will be considered during this funding and ranking period. However, they can make their final decision to participate in the program before they sign a contract. USDA expects the CSP final rule, which establishes the policies and procedures for the program, to be announced within the next several weeks.

CSP, authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, offers payments to producers who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and who agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship. Eligible lands include cropland, pastureland, rangeland and non-industrial forestland.

Potential applicants are encouraged to use the CSP self-screening checklist to determine if the new program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, contract obligations and potential payments. It is available from local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service offices or on the NRCS Web site at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_csp/csp.html.

CSP offers two types of potential payments—an annual payment and a supplemental payment. The annual payment will be determined by estimating the environmental benefits produced by the conservation activities a producer installs and maintains. A supplemental payment is available to participants who receive an annual payment and adopt a resource-conserving crop rotation on cropland.

For more information about CSP, please visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_csp/csp.html.