Time is running out for Tennessee farmers and ranchers to voice their concerns on how the Conservation Stewardship Program is set to operate for the next five years. Photo credit: Noel Pennington/Flickr.
It’s an opportunity that only comes along once every five years, so as the public comment period on the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) nears an end, Tennessee farmers and ranchers are being urged to make their voices heard. The program offers payments for actively managing, maintaining and expanding conservation activities, but Traci Bruckner, senior policy associate for conservation and agriculture with the Center for Rural Affairs, says among the concerns with the CSP Interim Final Rule is that it places a higher emphasis on the adoption of new practices. “Rather than supporting the farmers and ranchers who have been implementing conservation as a very central part of their farming operation,” she points out. “So we’re saying that they should level the playing field there, reward farmers and ranchers equally for the environmental outcomes, regardless of when they adopt those.” The deadline to comment to the Natural Resources Conservation Service on the rule is Tuesday, Jan. 20. Additional concerns are being raised that the CSP rule doesn’t do enough in supporting beginning and small-acreage farmers. Bruckner also says that it should be amended to close the loopholes that allow the largest operations to exceed payment limits. “We’re saying there should be ‘actively engagement rules’ applied to this, and that they should actually limit the payment limit to what the statute says, which is $40,000 per year and $200,000 over five years,” she stresses.