conservation applications

Conservation Stewardship Program applications now available

Starting in November, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will accept and process applications for enrollment in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the nation’s largest conservation program. Applications will be made available in local service centers.

NRCS has made several updates to the program this year to help producers better evaluate their conservation options and the benefits to their operations and natural resources. New methods and software for evaluating applications will help producers see up front why they are or are not meeting stewardship thresholds, and allow them to pick practices and enhancements that work for their conservation objectives.  These new tools also allow producers to see potential payment scenarios for conservation early in the process.

NRCS offices will begin processing applications for the program on Nov. 14, 2016, with sign-up running through February 3, 2017.  People interested in the additional opportunities the updated CSP will offer can find information on the new CSP portal, located at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/csp .  This one-stop shop, which provides information to help producers determine whether CSP is right for them, will be continually updated as more information becomes available.  Changes that producers can expect to see include nearly double the enhancements and conservation practices offered and better reporting tools to tell producers the results of their conservation efforts on their land.

Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat – all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land.  CSP also encourages the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques such as precision agriculture applications, on-site carbon storage and planting for high carbon sequestration rate, and new soil amendments to improve water quality.

NRCS has addressed producer and stakeholder input requesting greater flexibility to address local resource concerns. Now, NRCS will more effectively utilize input from farmers, ranchers and partners in State Technical Committees and local workgroups to inform and expand conservation strategies under the program. Producers will be better prepared to apply because they will know these local ranking priorities and targeted resource concerns in advance.

CSP is for producers who are already established conservation stewards, helping them to deliver multiple conservation benefits on working lands, including improved water and soil quality and enhanced wildlife habitat.  Information about CSP, including national and state ranking questions and enhancement descriptions, is available at www.nrcs.usda.gov/csp  Producers interested in the program should visit their local USDA Service Center to submit an application.

Since 2009, working with as many as 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect over 400 million acres nationwide, USDA has invested more than $29 billion to help producers make conservation improvements, boosting soil and air quality, cleaning and conserving water and enhancing wildlife habitat.

Montana’s Cherry Creek Ranch Receives Regional Environmental Stewardship Award

Montana Stockgrowers Association members win Regional Environmental Stewardship Award

DENVER (July 15, 2016) – Cherry Creek Ranch, Terry, Mont., was honored this week as one of six regional Environmental Stewardship Award Program winners. The award, which is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation, is presented to farmers and ranchers who are working hard to protect America’s natural resources.

The commercial cow-calf operation, located in eastern Montana, is one of the few remaining original homesteads, a fact that instills pride in Lon and Vicki Reukauf, the third generation to operate the ranch. That legacy also drives the management philosophy for the Reukauf’s, who place a strong emphasis on rotational grazing as a way to manage pastures and maintain soil health.

“For three generations we wake up every morning with the intention to get out of bed and have great intentions to improving the land and the landscape for our cattle and always putting their needs ahead of our own,” said Vicki Reukauf, who explained that the region’s silt soils mean the family needs to pay special attention to building root mass to help improve the soil and improve the water-holding capacity of the ground.

With an annual average rainfall of about 12.5 inches, keeping water on the land is a priority. One way they do that is by employing a rotational grazing system to help improve water infiltration into the soil. In 1983, Lon instituted a rotational grazing system and today rotates herds through multiple pastures to ensure grazing pressure is optimally distributed while also allowing a stockpile of forage for dry years.

“We felt that by having cattle on land for less time and giving it longer rest periods, we accomplished an increase in both species diversity and grass production and especially root depth on the plants that existed,” said Lon Reukaf. “I think by increasing the organic root depth of the plants you increase the organic matter in the soil. And I think it increases your water holding capacity in your soil and also having significant litter and good root mass in the ground makes the plants more efficiently utilize the moisture that you’ve got and lose less of that moisture to evaporation.”

Water distribution across the ranch also contributes to the successful implementation of stewardship practices of the Reukaufs. In fact, the family has installed 15 wells in strategic locations to provide the cattle with clean, fresh, consistent water, and they are slowly converting the wells to run off solar energy. So far, they have four done and plan to complete two more each year until they are all solar-powered. These tanks also help to pull animals away from lower riparian areas,” Lon said. “Putting this water in less sensitive areas is one of the single best factors in having a lot of species biodiversity in our plant community.”

Regional award recipients will now compete for the national Environmental Stewardship Award. The winner of the national award will be announced during the 2017 Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville, Tenn., in February, 2017.

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The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) has represented America’s cattle producers since 1898, preserving the heritage and strength of the industry through education and public policy.  As the largest association of cattle producers, NCBA works to create new markets and increase demand for beef.  Efforts are made possible through membership contributions. To join, contact NCBA at 1-866-BEEF-USA or membership@beef.org.