Increasing efforts on conservation results in higher ranking

By MATTHEW WEAVER

Capital Press

Farmers have until June 11 to be considered for the next slate of Conservation Stewardship Program signups.

That's the date Natural Resource Conservation Service offices across the country have marked as the cutoff to consider applications for the program. Signup is continuous, but applications are periodically ranked for selection.

Dave Brown, assistant state conservationist for the service for Washington, said the program is aimed at producers who are already using conservation efforts on their farm and who are interested in additional projects.

"It's another opportunity for producers to get funding for doing higher levels of conservation," Brown said. "A lot of the enhancements associated with the program are sort of above and beyond what the base level of conservation would be."

Enhancements include advanced management of nutrients or pests and global positioning system-guided applications, Brown said.

Ranking is based on the amount of additional conservation an applicant is willing to implement, he said.

"If they sign up for a bundle of enhancements, they're probably going to get more points and score better in the total makeup of the other applications," said Dennis Kimberlin, leader of programs in the Oregon office of the service.

This is the second signup for the program, which had its first ranking deadline last fall. During that signup, the Washington state funded 88 contracts on about 186,000 acres of land, a total of roughly $2.2 million, Brown said.

In Oregon, 200 applications were promoted to contracts for a total of $2.9 million, covering approximately 350,000 acres of farmland, Kimberlin said.

In California, the service funded 202 contracts, covering about 340,000 acres for a total of roughly $3.3 million.

In Idaho, the service received 91 applications covering 105,000 acres of agricultural land and 10 applications for 6,917 acres of nonindustrial private forest land, according to an Idaho NRCS press release.

Kimberlin said applications that are not selected are deferred, and can be considered in the next ranking deadline.

In Oregon, 145 applications from the first signup will be added to 34 new applications, with more expected.

The actual payment rates have not been released, with the rule due to be published after press time, Brown said. He encouraged people to sign up prior to the deadline and if they decide at a later date that they are not interested, they can withdraw their application without penalty.

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