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$175 million in funding released for conservation program

The Natural Resources Conservation Service's Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is offering $175 million in funding for up to 12.6 million additional acres of enrollment this year, USDA said in a statement today.

"The Conservation Stewardship Program is different than other USDA financial assistance programs," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "CSP offers payments to producers who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship. It's about conservation activities on the entire operation focusing on multiple resource concerns."

Vilsack said that although applications are accepted all year, farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners interested in CSP should submit applications by May 31 to their local NRCS office to ensure they are considered for this year's funding.

Producers enrolled an additional 12.1 million acres in CSP last year, bringing the total number of acres to more than 50 million, USDA said.

Many of the CSP enhancements improve soil quality, which helps land become more resilient to extreme weather. Other practices are available for producers, including intensive rotational grazing, intercropping, and wildlife-friendly fencing.

Because of the extreme weather in 2012, more interest and participation in the cover crop enhancements are expected this year, according to NRCS experts.

A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, stewardship threshold requirements, and payment types.

For the checklist and additional information, visit the CSP website

( or visit your local USDA NRCS office.

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