USDA Commits to Conservation Programs in the Dakotas

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While sportsmen have contributed more than $13.7 billion over the past 80 years toward environmental conservation, the USDA has stepped up recently to put more effort towards the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the nation’s largest conservation program.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a part of the USDA, has updated the program to become more useful to producers, particularly in the Dakotas.

“North Dakota producers utilize the Conservation Stewardship Program to the fullest extent. The changes and additions of these tools will make it an even better experience,” said State Conservationist Mary Podoll. “CSP has assisted our agricultural stewards to build on to their existing conservation plans to enhance water quality, wildlife habitat, and soil health.”

Landowners and farmers are able to earn payments and credits through the CSP by maintaining conservation efforts like using ecological pest control methods and covering crops while still producing suitable crops.

Precision agriculture as well as on-site carbon storage and other technologies are encouraged by CSP. Using different land management techniques to improve soil and water quality is also a big plus.

The NRCS plans to introduce new software and advanced methods for showing producers how and why they are not meeting the CSP standards, and will allow them to utilize methods that are best aligned with their industry-specific conservation efforts.

South Dakota is also getting some recognition from the USDA. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that 88 high-impact conservation projects — two in South Dakota — will receive federal funding. Around $225 million total will be contributed to the project as part of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), another organization within the USDA, which was created by the 2014 Farm Bill.

The 2,000 partners of the program, which include Native American reservations, nonprofits, and local governments, have proposed to invest another $500 million in order to improve drought conditions, soil and water health, and agricultural viability in some areas.

By using both of these programs, NRCS is contributing $825 million to 286 projects, and bringing in $1.4 billion from partners to fund technological advancement.

Applications are available for the Conservation Stewardship Program, and can be submitted until Feb. 3, 2017.

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