Consider the Conservation Stewardship Program for FRB


I listened to Roger Thurow, author of the book Enough, describe the problems of people trying to survive and grow food in Kenya.  He described how our government’s foreign aid to help fund improvements to the food production system in starving countries has dropped—at one time, we provided $8 billion.  That number recently has been $1 billion.  As the problems of hunger in Africa and other parts of the world have escalated, our help has evaporated, eroded, washed away.

Below is an idea that can raise a LOT of money for FRB and FRB sponsored overseas programs.  It starts at the same place all growing projects start---with U.S. farmers.  No one will need to go ask or lobby for funding.  It uses a relatively new agricultural program that’s available to all farmers. Here’s the concept:

There is a program that began with the 2008 farm bill called the Conservation Stewardship Program.  My agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service administers CSP. Basically, farmers receive these payments as a reward for the conservation measures they’ve BEEN using on the land they farm ---in addition, they agree to adopt 1 or more new practices or enhancements to their operation that can have positive impacts on soil, water, and air quality and / or have positive impacts on wildlife, livestock, and energy conservation. These payments can be as much as $40,000 per year, for the 5 years of the contract.  There are some costs in adopting the enhancements.  The payment amount is determined by the size of the farming operation, number of practices used, and the number and type of enhancements selected. 

FRB can simply ask our growing project farmers, “if your application results in a CSP contract, would you consider giving a portion of your payment to your growing project, or to FRB for administration and promotion, or to your church’s mission organization represented on the FRB board, etc.?” 

Another way to look at this is that these CSP payments should strengthen a farmer’s financial position, which, even if no dollars are given to FRB, it should make farmers see more value in being part of a growing project.

If 200 of our growing project farmers received a contract with an average payment of $20,000, and they agreed to donate 10%, that would be $400,000 per year for five years.   

Many Midwestern farmers with operations that are over 2000 acres, have come close to, or qualified for the maximum $40,000 payment.  Depending on the number of farmers that apply, the size of their payments, the size of their generosity---this idea could generate millions for FRB projects.

Currently, the CSP funds for 2011 may be obligated soon---this means that NOW is a good time to start thinking about the program, asking questions, thinking through the enhancements, so that later this year, when application deadlines come for 2012, farmers have a level of comfort with the program and its requirements.   The application process will seem much easier if it’s done over a period of time, and not in a “last minute” sort of way.   I should emphasize that these payments are not given for nothing—farmers have costs with their operations and the practices they use, and there will be some costs in adopting enhancements.

As with all FRB projects, farmers applying for the program are primarily doing what they’re already doing—they’re just adopting something new in their operation as an enhancement, and doing some work in the application process.

I hope to help promote this endeavor—and would be willing to talk with anyone in any growing project anywhere about it.  In this way, the government would be funding improvements in agriculture overseas---unknowingly, but legally through a new conservation program, and through our wonderful growing project farmers. Please see the attached document for more information.


   Paul Youngstrum

   Resource Conservationist, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service

   Volunteer with the Ottawa-Barrington, IL Growing Project

12/27/2011 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment