Public comments invited on USDA Conservation Stewardship Program interim rule
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Texas is seeking public comments on changes to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) interim final rule. USDA published the interim final rule, which contains the statutory changes to CSP, in the Federal Register. The rule will be open for public comments through Jan. 5, 2015.
Interested individuals can submit public comments on the interim final rule via regulations.gov. Public comments will be used to finalize the interim final rule, and a final rule will be published afterwards, according to the USDA.
“As conservation leaders, farmers and ranchers in Texas will be pleased by the program changes,” said NRCS State Conservationist Salvador Salinas. “These changes will increase the level of stewardship needed to address critical resource concerns on working agricultural lands and enable them to deliver more conservation benefits.”
The interim final rule is used to implement CSP. This program helps agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems and adopt additional conservation activities to address priority resources concerns. Participants earn CSP payments for conservation performance — the higher the performance, the higher the payment.
Congress changed CSP in the 2014 Farm Bill, and NRCS, the agency that administers CSP, incorporated those changes into this interim rule. These changes are designed to improve the competitive nature of the program, including raising the bar for the quality of projects enrolled and increasing the number of priority resource concerns to be addressed during the term of the CSP contract.
As one of USDA’s largest conservation programs for working agricultural lands, more than 64 million acres have been enrolled in the program nationwide since its launch in 2009. NRCS in Texas has enrolled approximately 300,000 acres.