State-funded Farm Stewardship Program Awards Early Adopters, Accepting New Applications
$150,000 awarded to farmers engaged with the Conservation Stewardship Program
September 13, 2023 | Montpelier VT - A new state incentive program, the Vermont Farmer Ecosystem Stewardship Program, has recently paid $150,000 to 30 Vermont farms to compensate them for their ongoing participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). This incentive from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets will continue to be available for new CSP applicants this fall, but funding is limited.
The USDA NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program is a federal program that helps land managers enhance a variety of natural resources across their whole farm while improving their business operations. CSP funds the most acres of conservation in the United States and is more extensive and outcome-focused than many federal programs but has historically been undersubscribed in Vermont. That is where the state incentive comes in.
The state incentive is designed to provide upfront incentive payments and technical assistance to increase the number of farms who enroll in CSP. Each farmer will receive between $2,000 and $9,500 in state incentives, depending on their level of engagement. These supplemental payments are additional to any federal funds received by the farm for implementing conservation activities under CSP such as forage plantings that improve wildlife habitat or increasing riparian buffer width for sediment and nutrient reduction.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets hopes this incentive will motivate farmers to increase their level of conservation and build a cohort of Vermont farmer-advocates with experience engaging in comprehensive ecosystem stewardship. To date, the state incentive program has seen interest from 88 farms and committed $595,500 dollars to Vermont farmers for CSP engagement. As a result of this state support and increased technical assistance and outreach from agricultural water quality partners such as the local conservation districts, USDA NRCS has seen a significant increase in interest from Vermont farmers in CSP.
“CSP is one of the core programs we offer at NRCS, and a great opportunity for farmers to receive consistent payments for their environmental stewardship,” said Travis Thomason, State Conservationist for NRCS. “We are glad the state and our other partners have stepped up to support enrollment of farmers in this program and we are thrilled with the increased number of CSP applications we received this year.”
Additional state incentive funds remain available, so interested farmers are encouraged to start the CSP application process now by contacting their local Farm Services Agency (FSA) to ensure their farm records are up to date. Interested applicants must then submit an application to their local NRCS office. FSA and NRCS office locations can be found online at the USDA Service Center locator. From there, farms can enroll for additional state incentive payment at agriculture.vermont.gov/CSP-Assist.
For questions, please contact: Noah Gilbert-Fuller, Agricultural Water Quality Program Coordinator
802-505-3407 | Noah.Gilbert-Fuller@vermont.gov
Photo Caption: The USDA NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) compensates Vermont farmers for achieving a high level of stewardship on their land.