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New report looks at spending under Conservation Stewardship Program

New report looks at spending under Conservation Stewardship Program

Gayle Strobach with cattle

Gayle Strobach raises Angus-Simmental crossbred cattle in addition to working an off-farm job. She participates in the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Stewardship Program.

Despite the value the Conservation Stewardship Program offers in supporting farmers and ranchers in enhancing conservation of natural resources on their operations, funding has been reduced significantly in the last two farm bills, according to a white paper released today by the Center for Rural Affairs.

“Mapping the Money: An Analysis of Spending Under the Conservation Stewardship Program,” authored by Anna Johnson, policy manager for the center, traces the path of the funding, from Congress to on-the-ground conservation.

“Long-term viability of farms and ranches depends on the sustained health of soil and water resources,” Johnson said. “However, most conservation practices require a front-end investment from farmers and ranchers, which can serve as a barrier for implementation. CSP offers unique benefits to farmers interested in increasing conservation on their land.”

Created as part of the 2008 farm bill, CSP is designed to serve those farmers and ranchers who demonstrate they are currently invested in conservation. Through five-year contracts, CSP ensures conservation is increased across their entire operations—preventing cases in which good conservation happens on some acres while others are neglected.

The 2014 farm bill decreased the number of acres that USDA could enroll in CSP, and the 2018 farm bill changed the funding structure of the program from acres-based to dollars-based, both of which coincided with reductions in overall funding for the program.

“From more than $2 billion under the 2008 farm bill to between $1.1 billion and $1.9 billion under the 2014 farm bill to less than $1 billion under the 2018 farm bill, CSP funding has been cut in half since the 2008 farm bill,” Johnson said. “Every year, USDA receives far more CSP applications than it has the ability to fund. For example, in 2020, only 25% of CSP applications were funded.”

For more information or to view “Mapping the Money: An Analysis of Spending Under the Conservation Stewardship Program,” visit cfra.org/publications.

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