Conservation Stewardship Program

Conservation Stewardship Program

Rick Worthington
Rick Worthington
Some farmers are voicing concerns that one version of the Farm Bill now in Congress would gut a program they say is vital to the ag industry.

The Conservation Stewardship Program, or CSP, partially offsets the costs of things like cover crops that keep soil in place and buffer strips near streams to prevent soil erosion.

Tara Ritter with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, says CSP could have even further reach if money were available.

"It's underfunded, too - over half and sometimes up to 75 percent of all qualified applicants are turned away each year - and that's at current funding levels," she notes.

Ritter says eliminating CSP funding won't kill farmers' conservation efforts, but it may make them less popular. That's a big deal, given that some of the practices covered help make land more resilient to climate-shifting weather events.

The House Agriculture Committee is led by Mike Conway, who's argued the most important parts of CSP have been rolled into other programs - but Ritter says that isn't true.

"The only part of CSP that was retained is what's called the Stewardship Contract, and those are now open to a wide range of different farmers - so for instance, factory farm animal production," she explains.

She says that means less money for small farmers who may depend on incentives to be able to undertake conservation efforts. The preliminary House version of the bill is likely to come up for a full vote within the month. The Senate version has not yet been introduced.

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