MONTPELIER, Vt. — A new state-funded program, the Vermont Farmer Ecosystem Stewardship Program, will assist Vermont farmers to achieve high levels of stewardship on their land by supporting them to enroll in the USDA NRCS Vermont Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
The largest conservation program in the United States, CSP is a federal program that helps land managers enhance natural resources and improve their business operations. CSP requires producers to meet certain environmental objectives and commit to 5 years of enhanced conservation on their land. In return, producers receive an annual conservation payment.
The Vermont Farmer Ecosystem Stewardship Program is looking to increase enrollment in CSP in Vermont while helping producers enhance their natural resource stewardship. Based on recommendations from the Vermont Payment for Ecosystem Services and Soil Health Working Group, technical assistance and supplemental payments of $2,000-$9,500 will be provided to Vermont farms who engage in CSP conservation planning and/or enroll in CSP contracts for their cropland and/or pasture. The goal is to ensure that farms are adequately recognized and compensated for environmental stewardship and to incentivize conservation planning and enhanced conservation.
“The Vermont Farmer Ecosystem Stewardship Program is a great example of the collaboration we foster around conservation and agriculture here in Vermont,” commented Alyson Eastman, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets and co-chair of the Working Group. “This state program was developed based on the consensus recommendations of our farmers and partners and will leverage federal resources for Vermont farmers.”
Under the Vermont Farmer Ecosystem Stewardship Program, agricultural producers of all sizes who successfully engage in the development of a Conservation Stewardship Plan will receive a one-time payment from the state of $2,000, followed by an additional state payment between $1,500 and $7,500 if they successfully sign a CSP contract. These one-time payments in the first year of engagement are above and beyond any federal CSP funds made available to these producers through NRCS. NRCS CSP contracts range from $1,500-$40,000 per year for five years.
Travis Thomason, NRCS State Conservationist, strongly encourages Vermont farmers to apply now to CSP and the Vermont Farmer Ecosystem Stewardship Program. “CSP is a great opportunity for Vermont farmers to be compensated for their land stewardship and to continue pushing the envelope on conservation,” Thomason stated. “The additional state funds for planning and enrollment, which may only be available for a few years, make this year a particularly good time to apply to CSP.”
To apply for CSP, producers must first contact their local Farm Services Agency (FSA) to ensure their farm records are up to date, and then submit a CSP application to NRCS by April 21, 2023.
FSA and NRCS offices can be found online at the USDA Service Center locator. Producers must complete a separate application for state assistance under the Vermont Farmer Ecosystem Stewardship Program by May 8, 2023. Application materials and more information can be found at agriculture.vermont.gov/CSP-Assist.
–Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets