The Vermont Farmer Ecosystem Stewardship Program will support Vermont farmers to enroll in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The State-funded program will provide supplemental payments to Vermont farms who successfully engage in conservation planning on cropland or pasture under CSP and/or who successfully enroll in CSP contracts for their cropland or pasture.
The Vermont Farmer Ecosystem Stewardship Program is designed to ensure that farms are adequately recognized and compensated for their whole-farm stewardship and to provide a pathway to conservation planning and the implementation of additional conservation enhancements through the CSP program. This supplemental payment program was based on recommendations from the Vermont Payment for Ecosystem Services and Soil Health Working Group and will be administered by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM).
Under this state-funded incentive program, agricultural producers of all sizes who successfully engage in the development of an NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program Assessment will receive a one-time payment from the state of $2,000, followed by an additional state payment of 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 contracts pay a minimum of $1,500 and a maximum of $40,000 per year and extend for five (5) years.
Vermont farms who plan to submit or have submitted applications to the CSP program, or Vermont farms who are applying for contract renewal, are encouraged to apply to the Vermont Farmer Ecosystem Stewardship Program to receive additional financial assistance. This program is time-limited, so applicants are encouraged to apply to both CSP and the Vermont Farmer Ecosystem Stewardship Program now to secure these additional State funds towards their CSP contracts.
To apply to CSP, producers must first contact their local Farm Services Agency (FSA) to ensure their farm records are up to date, and then should submit a CSP application (click for link) to NRCS by their upcoming application deadline, which is currently anticipated to be October 20, 2023.
Your local FSA and NRCS offices can be found at the USDA Service Center locator (click for link).
Applications for additional state assistance, as requested via the application and release form below, are due by November 3rd, 2023. Please note that applications will not be reviewed until that time.
To apply, submit an Application/Authorization to Release Information in one of the following formats to allow NRCS and VAAFM to coordinate on your application:
Upcoming Timeline for 2023/2024 CSP Ag Land applicants/renewals:
Before November 3rd, 2023: Submit Application/Authorization to Release Information to AAFM. Commence grant paperwork with VAAFM.
Before September 30th, 2024: Finish a CSP Assessment with your local NRCS office. (Entitled to receive $2,000 from VAAFM upon completion, pending VAAFM grant signature.)
Before September 30th, 2024: Sign a CSP Agreement with NRCS, if eligible. Timeline may be extended at NRCS discretion. (Receive $1,500-$7,500 from VAAFM upon completion. Funding amount variable based on budget and number of applicants.)
Annually thereafter: eligible for annual CSP payments from NRCS for the length of 5-year contract (minimum of $1,500, max of $40,000 annually).