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NRCS California Increases Minimum Annual Payment for Conservation Stewardship Program

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is increasing the minimum annual payment for agricultural producers participating in the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) from $1,500 to $4,000 starting this fiscal year 2024 (which began October 1, 2023).

The increase addresses challenges faced by small-scale, underserved, and urban producers and improves equity in the program by making participation more financially beneficial for smaller operations. The new minimum payment is available for new and renewed CSP contracts.

“Increasing the minimum payment to CSP participants regardless of the size of their operation helps to make participation worthwhile for California’s agricultural producers,” said NRCS California State Conservationist Carlos Suarez, “By broadening the appeal of CSP, we can further expand implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act funding for conservation programs.”

CSP offers technical and financial assistance to help agricultural and forest producers take their conservation efforts to the next level. The program is designed to compensate agricultural and forest producers who agree to increase their level of conservation by adopting additional conservation activities and maintaining their baseline level of conservation.

Examples of CSP enhancements that are suitable for being adopted by smaller scale and urban producers include:

  • Planting multi-species cover crops
  • Mulching with natural materials
  • Establishing pollinator habitats
  • Soil health crop rotation
  • And much more!

Inflation Reduction Act and CSP

Currently, an unprecedented amount of funding is available for CSP through the Inflation Reduction Act and Farm Bill. The Inflation Reduction Act provided $19.5 billion in additional funding for NRCS’ oversubscribed programs like CSP for five years. Inflation Reduction Act funds are available to help producers adopt climate-smart practices.

NRCS recently announced it increased the number of Climate-Smart Agricultural and Forestry Mitigation Activities eligible for Inflation Reduction Act funding for fiscal year 2024 through CSP, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) To learn more, download the list of practices and a fact sheet.

How to Apply

NRCS accepts producer applications for its conservation programs year-round, but producers interested in this cycle of Inflation Reduction Act funding should apply as soon as possible. Producers interested in CSP should apply by March 22, 2024, for consideration this year.

Funding is provided through a competitive process and will include an opportunity to address the unmet demand from producers who have previously sought funding for climate-smart conservation activities.

Since its inception in 1935, NRCS has worked in partnership with private landowners and a variety of local, state, and federal conservation partners to deliver conservation based on specific, local needs. 

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