Only a few days remain for Texas landowners to hit the first sign-up period cutoff of Sept. 30 for the new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which is a voluntary program that provides financial assistance to agricultural and forestry producers to maintain existing conservation activities and adopt additional ones on their operations.

Landowners who have participated in other conservation programs in the past can sign-up for CSP, as well as those who have never participated. Landowners who sign up before the Sept. 30 deadline will have until the end of October to complete program eligibility.

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill) authorizes CSP, which is administered by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Congress renamed and revamped the former Conservation Security Program completely to improve its availability and appeal to agricultural and forestry producers. The new CSP is available to all producers nationwide. Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, prairie, improved pastureland, non-industrial private forestland-a new land use for the program-and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe.

Eligible applicants may include individual landowners, legal entities, and Indian tribes. Although CSP is a continuous sign-up program, applications received by Sept. 30 will be considered for funding in the first ranking period.

Texas NRCS State Conservationist Don Gohmert encourages producers to make every effort to sign-up during the first ranking period. “The new CSP is an excellent opportunity for producers to be rewarded for their land stewardship,” he said. “As more producers become familiar with the new version of the program, we anticipate greater competition in future sign-ups.”

To apply for the newly revamped CSP, potential participants are encouraged to visit their local NRCS field offices. Eligibility, level of environmental performance, and ranking will all be determined after the application is made. Once the potential participant has been approved for funding, he or she will work with NRCS to develop a conservation stewardship plan.

For information about CSP, including eligibility requirements, producers can visit www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/CSP or visit their local NRCS field office.