Farmers, ranchers and forest landowners who signed Conservation Stewardship Program contracts in 2011 with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have until Tuesday, March 31, 2015 to renew those expiring contracts.

These farmers, ranchers and forest landowners have the option to renew their existing contracts non-competitively if they are willing to adopt additional conservation activities aimed at helping them achieve higher levels of conservations on their operations, said Jason Weller, Chief of NRCS.

Changes in the 2014 Farm Bill will allow CSP participants with expiring contracts to renew them by exceeding stewardship thresholds for two or more existing natural resource concerns specified by NRCS or by meeting stewardship thresholds for at least two new natural resource concerns such as improving water quality or soil health.

About 9,300 contracts covering more than 12.2 million acres are nearing the end of their five-year term and can be renewed for an additional five years. The agricultural producer or forest landowner must complete all conservation activities contained in the initial contract before a renewal can be granted.

An agricultural producer or forest landowner must meet the minimum criteria established by NRCS to renew an expiring CSP contract. Contract renewal also offers these agricultural producers and forest landowners an opportunity to add new conservation activities to meet their conservation goals and protect the natural resources on their farms, forests or ranches. The 2014 Farm Bill includes an expanded conservation activity list that now includes cover crops, intensive rotational grazing and wildlife-friendly fencing.

USDA’s largest conservation program by acreage, CSP pays participants for conservation performance — the better the performance, the higher the payment. Nearly 70 million acres have been enrolled in the program since its launch in 2009.

USDA offers financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers and forest landowners for the active management and maintenance of existing conservation activities and for carrying out new conservation activities on working agricultural land. Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, prairie land, improved pastureland, rangeland, non-industrial private forestland and tribal agricultural land. Applicants must have control of the land for the 5-year term of the contract.

CSP participants who wish to renew for an additional five years must submit an application indicating their intent to renew to their local NRCS office prior to March 31, 2015, the national deadline.

To learn more about CSP contract renewals, visit your local NRCS office. Visit the Conservation Stewardship Program page for more information about this program.