More farmers in Minnesota than any other state have used a voluntary USDA program that aims to improve, maintain and expand on-farm conservation practices.
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and encourages farmers to take measurable steps to improve soil, water quality, wildlife habitat and other conservation efforts.
Since the CSP program began in 2009, nearly 2 million acres of Minnesota farmland has been enrolled. Murray and Grant County lead the state with 130,386 acres and 121,037 acres enrolled, respectively. Over 2,600 Minnesota farmers are enrolled in the program, led by Morrison County in Central Minnesota with 205 contracts.
Doug Albin grows corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa on his farm near Clarkfield, about 120 miles west of the Twin Cities in Yellow Medicine County. He has used the CSP program to put in buffer strips that improve water quality and to use new technologies to improve fertilizer application.
“It’s a program that rewards you for what you’re already doing well and encourages you to take it to the next level,” said Albin, who also serves on the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council. “It’s a chance to try some new technologies and new practices related to conservation that you otherwise might not be able to attempt.”
The success of the CSP program in Minnesota is yet another reason why passing a new farm bill remains a top priority for Minnesota’s corn farmers. Yes, the CSP program is extended through Sept. 30, 2014, but without a new farm bill, the program’s future is up in the air after that date.
The CSP program has helped Minnesota farmers make great strides in building upon existing conservation efforts, especially in the areas of water quality, soil management and wildlife habitat. Why bring all that momentum to a screeching halt by further delaying a new farm bill?