One of the more significant changes in the 2018 Farm Bill was the establishment of a new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) Grassland Conservation Initiative as a way to save money in the commodity title of the farm bill. In short, certain base acres that have not been planted to a commodity crop a nine-year period will not be eligible for commodity payments during the life of the 2018 Farm Bill. Those acres will have been documented as being planted to grass or left idle or fallow for at least the period beginning Jan. 1, 2009 and ending Dec. 31, 2017. Instead, those producers had the ability to enroll those acres in the new grasslands program. They will receive a payment of $18 per acre per year.
The Washington Association of Wheat Growers reached out to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to find out more about the Grassland Conservation Initiative. Although the deadline for signing up for the program has passed, we thought the information we received was important enough to publish. Below are the responses from a the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) spokesperson to our questions:
What was the sign-up deadline for the program.
USDA sent letters to agricultural producers who were eligible for the new Grassland Conservation Initiative, which was created by the 2018 Farm Bill. This program is available to producers where 100 percent of the cropland acreage on the farm has been in grass or grasslands over a nine-year period, rather than planted with commodity crops.
Two letters were sent to producers, one with the original deadline of June 28, 2019, and one with the extended deadline, which was July 19, 2019.
Will producers who signed their acreage up lose those base acres permanently?
Under the 2018 Farm Bill, acreage that is eligible to enroll in the CSP Grassland Conservation Initiative is not eligible for payment through the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA); however FSA will maintain those base acres in the event a future farm bill allows them to receive future payments
What happens if a producer decided not to sign those base acres up?
There may be additional enrollment opportunities for the CSP Grassland Conservation Initiative under subsequent years’ CSP sign ups. The base acres eligible for this program are not eligible for payment through the ARC/PLC program in FY 2019-2023.
What are the maintenance requirements for the acreage that is signed up?
NRCS will develop a conservation stewardship plan for the eligible acres. Producers must meet or exceed the stewardship threshold for one priority resource concern by the end of their five-year contract.
Participants are required to maintain the enrolled land in accordance with their conservation stewardship plan.
Will there be any other enrollment opportunities in the future, or was this the only one?
There may be additional enrollment opportunities. At this time, USDA has not set dates for another sign-up. Any applications NRCS receives after the July 19 deadline will be considered for future CSP Grasslands Conservation Initiative sign-ups.
How many producers and acres are affected in Washington state?
As of June 11, 2019, there were 121 farms in Washington state that were identified as eligible for the first CSP Grassland Conservation Initiative Sign-up in FY 2019. There were 5,592 eligible base acres on these farms. FSA notified 143 operators and owners in Washington state that they might be eligible for CSP-Grassland Conservation Initiative in FY 2019.