Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) state conservationist for Texas, Don Gohmert, announced a sign-up that began on Aug. 10, 2009, for the new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to assist agricultural and forestry producers. CSP is a new program authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill.

“Farmers and ranchers actively engaged in conservation land stewardship have the opportunity to earn conservation rewards through CSP,” Gohmert said. “This program gives conversation-minded producers the ability to apply and build on their current stewardship efforts.”

CSP is a five-year program which offers continuous sign-up, but all eligible applicants who sign up between Aug. 10 and Sept. 30, 2009, will be ranked as a group in October and November. A second ranking of subsequent applications will likely take place again in January or February.

CSP replaced a program authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill, the Conservation Security Program which was only offered on a watershed-specific basis. The new CSP is now available to landowners statewide.

Gohmert noted only top stewards will be awarded contracts for CSP and receive funding.

NRCS encourages farmers and ranchers actively involved in conserving their natural resources to apply for CSP in order to maintain existing conservation activities and implement additional enhancements or practices on their land.

“CSP is for the best of the best stewards,” Gohmert said. “We have many land stewards in Texas that are worthy of this recognition, and I encourage them to apply.”

Lands eligible for CSP include cropland, grassland, pastureland, and private nonindustrial forestland, a new land use for the program. Agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe is expressly eligible as well.

The CSP application process begins with a self-screening checklist. Interested producers can obtain additional information from the NRCS website or contact their local USDA-NRCS field office.