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HELP SHAPE THE CONSERVATION STEWARDSHIP PROGRAM

Posted: September 12 2009

Greenhorns - comments are due Sept 28th!sun&saddle
This is an alert from the National Sustainable Ag Coalition.
Since the 1930s we've been paying farmers to produce corn, wheat, rice, and cotton. What if instead we paid farmers for producing healthier soil, cleaner water, climate change mitigation and greater bio-diversity? That's the "Big Idea" behind the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Pay farmers for producing environmental outcomes that contribute to the public good.
Sustainable and organic farming advocates have an important - but short - opportunity to help shape the implementation of this working lands conservation program. USDA has requested comments on the administrative rules that will govern implementation of the new CSP. The deadline for submitting comments is September 28th.
USDA is considering giving a higher rank to CSP applications proposing the adoption of new conservation practices vs. the maintenance of existing practices. Current rules give equal weight to existing and proposed conservation practices. Please tell USDA that CSP applications should be ranked on the basis of environmental outcomes and not on the basis of when a conservation practice is implemented.
You can submit a comment from our website here or follow the instructions below.
Background and Talking Points:
USDA has posed a specific question for comment: Should the program give greater weight and therefore a higher rank and a higher likelihood of acceptance into the program to applications proposing new conservation practices? Or should existing and new practices be given equal weight?
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and other conservation programs pay farmers for adopting new conservation practices. The CSP, however, is unique among working lands conservation programs. The CSP rewards farmers who are already farming at a high stewardship threshold and provides an incentive to maintain those high stewardship standards.
If a farmer has previously adopted advanced conservation measures and systems, the program is designed to reward that behavior and help pay for continued active management and maintenance of those systems and practices. Farmers should also be expected to and be rewarded for adopting new practices. But CSP ranking and payments should be keyed to environmental outcomes and not on when conservation activities are adopted.
CSP design and regulation should equally balance the benefits of both existing and new practices with the primary measure being the environmental benefits secured by the total conservation system regardless of the timing of adoption of various parts of the system. This is essential to making CSP a program that recognizes and rewards the multiple benefits of sustainable and organic farming systems.
How to submit a comment:
Comment letters can be as short or as long as you want. Put your comments in your own words, and raise the points most important to you.
You can submit a comment from our website by clicking here or you can email comments directly to USDA [email protected]
If you send your own email: Be sure to identify the Docket Number at the top of your letter: RE: NRCS-IFR-09004. Address your comment letter to: Mr. Gregory Johnson, Director, Financial Assistance Programs, US Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Room 5237-S, Washington, DC 20250-2890. Be sure to identify yourself by providing your name and contact information. You may also mail your letter to this address if you prefer not to email it.

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