7 CFR § 1469.23 - Program payments.

§ 1469.23 Program payments.

(a)Stewardship component of CSP payments.

(1) The conservation stewardship plan, as applicable, divides the land area to be enrolled in the CSP into land use categories, such as irrigated and non-irrigated cropland, irrigated and non-irrigated pasture, pastured cropland and range land, among other categories.

(2) NRCS will determine an appropriate stewardship payment rate for each land use category using the following methodology:

(i) NRCS will initially calculate the average 2001 rates using the Agriculture Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA) Land Value Survey, the National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) land rental data, and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) rental rates.

(ii) Where typical rental rates for a given land use vary widely within a State or between adjacent States, NRCS will adjust the county-level rates to ensure local and regional consistency and equity.

(iii) The State Conservationists can also contribute additional local data, with advice from the State Technical Committee.

(iv) The final stewardship payment rate will be the adjusted regional rates described in paragraph (a)(2)(i) through (iii) of this section multiplied by a reduction factor of 0.25 for Tier I, 0.50 for Tier II, and 0.75 for Tier III.

(v)Pastured cropland will receive the same stewardship payment as cropland.

(3) NRCS will compute the stewardship component of the CSP payment as the product of: the number of acres in each land use category (not including “other” or land not in the applicant's control); the corresponding stewardship payment rate for the applicable acreage; and a tier-specific percentage. The tier-specific percentage is 5 percent for Tier I payments, 10 percent for Tier II payments, and 15 percent for Tier III payments.

(4) Other incidental parcels as defined in § 1469.5(d)(1)(iv) may be given a stewardship rate as though they were the land use to which they are contiguous if they are serving a conservation purpose, such as wildlife habitat. Payment is limited to not more than ten percent of the contract acres. Minimum treatment requirements for the contract tier apply.

(5) Other land, as defined in § 1469.5(d)(1)(v), is not included in the stewardship payment computation.

(6) NRCS will publish the stewardship payment rates at the announcement of each program sign-up.

(b)Existing practice component of CSP payments.

(1) The Chief will determine and announce which practices will be eligible for existing practice payments in accordance with § 1469.8(a).

(2) With exceptions including, but not limited to, paragraph (b)(3) and (4) of this section, NRCS may pay the participant a percentage of the average 2001 county cost of maintaining a land management, and structural practice that is documented in the benchmark condition inventory as existing upon enrollment in CSP. The Chief may offer alternative payment methods such as paying a percentage of the stewardship payment as long as the payment will not exceed 75 percent (or, in the case of a beginning farmer or rancher, 90 percent) of the average 2001 county costs of installing the practice in the 2001 crop year. NRCS will post the rates for payment at the time of the sign-up notices on the NRCS website and in USDA Service Centers.

(3) NRCS will not pay for maintenance of equipment.

(4) NRCS will not pay an existing practice component of CSP payments for any practice that is required to meet conservation compliance requirements found in 7 CFR Part 12.

(5) Existing practice payments are not intended to pay for routine maintenance activities related to production practices or practices considered typical in farm and ranch operations for a specific location.

(6) Existing practice payments will be made only on practices that meet or exceed the practice standards described in the FOTG.

(7) The Chief may reduce the rates in any given sign-up notice.

(c)New practice payments.

(1) The Chief will determine and announce which practices will be eligible for new practice payments in accordance with § 1469.8(a).

(2) If the conservation stewardship contract requires the implementation of a new structural or land management practice, NRCS may pay a percentage of the cost of installing the new practice. NRCS will provide the list of approved practices and the percentage cost-share rate for each practice at the time of each CSP sign-up notice.

(3)Participants may contribute to their share of the cost of installing a new practice through in-kind sources, such as personal labor, use of personal equipment, or donated materials. Contributions for a participant's share of the practice may also be provided from non-Federal sources, as determined by the Chief.

(4) Cost-share payments may be provided by other programs; except that payments may not be provided through CSP and another program for the same practice on the same land area.

(5) If additional practices are installed or implemented to advance a contract from one tier of participation to a higher tier, the practice must be certified as meeting FOTG practice standards by NRCS.

(6) In no instance will the total financial contributions for installing a practice from all public and private entity sources exceed 100 percent of the actual cost of installing the practice.

(7) NRCS will not pay a new practice payment for any practice that is required to meet the conservation compliance plan requirements found in 7 CFR Part 12.

(8) The Chief may reduce the rates in any given sign-up notice.

(d)Enhancement component of CSP payments.

(1) The Chief will establish a list of conservation practices and activities that are eligible for enhancement payments for a given sign-up. State Conservationists, with advice from the State Technical Committees, will tailor the list to meet the needs of the selected watersheds and submit to the Chief for concurrence.

(2) NRCS may pay an enhancement component of a CSP payment if a conservation stewardship plan demonstrates to the satisfaction of NRCS that the plan's activities will increase conservation performance including activities related to energy management as a result of additional effort by the participant and result in:

(i) The improvement of a resource concern by implementing or maintaining multiple conservation practices or measures that exceed the minimum eligibility requirements for the contract's Tier of participation as outlined in the sign-up notice and as described in § 1469.5(e) and the contract requirements in § 1469.21; or

(ii) An improvement in a local resource concern based on local priorities and in addition to the national significant resource concerns, as determined by NRCS.

(3) NRCS may also pay an enhancement component of a CSP payment if a participant:

(i) Participates in an on-farm conservation research, demonstration, or pilot project as outlined in the sign-up notice; or

(ii) Cooperates with other producers to implement watershed or regional resource conservation plans that involve at least 75 percent of the producers in the targeted area; or

(iii) Carries out assessment and evaluation activities relating to practices included in the conservation stewardship plan as outlined in the sign-up notice.

(4) NRCS will not pay the enhancement component of a CSP payment for any practice that is required to meet the conservation compliance plan requirements found in 7 CFR Part 12.

(5)Eligible enhancement payments.

(i)State Conservationists, with advice from the State Technical Committees, will develop proposed enhancement payment amounts for each practice and activity.

(ii) An enhancement payment will be made to encourage a producer to perform or continue a management practice or activity, resource assessment and evaluation project, or field-test a research, demonstration, or pilot project that produces enhanced environmental performance and benefits or produces information and data to improve a resource concern or update the NRCS technical guides. Enhancement payments will be:

(A) For activities where NRCS can demonstrate the economic value of the environmental benefits, based on a given activity's expected environmental benefit value. The payment may not exceed the activity's expected economic value; or

(B) For activities where NRCS cannot demonstrate the economic value of the environmental benefits, a rate that will not exceed a producer's cost to implement a given activity.

(iii) NRCS will post the list of approved enhancement activities and payment amounts for each activity concurrent with the CSP sign-up notice.

(6) The Chief may set a not-to-exceed limit or variable payment rate for the enhancement payment in any given sign-up notice.

(7) Enhancements above the minimum criteria for the resource concern that are included in the benchmark inventory may be included in the first CSP payment.

(e)Contracts will be limited as follows:

(1) $20,000 per year for a Tier I conservation stewardship contract,

(2) $35,000 per year for a Tier II conservation stewardship contract, or

(3) $45,000 per year for a Tier III conservation stewardship contract.

(4) Stewardship components of CSP payments cannot exceed $5,000 per year for Tier I, $10,500 per year for Tier II, or $13,500 per year for Tier III.

(5) The new practice payment will not exceed 50 percent of the average county costs of installing the practice (or a similar practice, if new) in the 2001 crop year with the exception of beginning and limited resource producers, in which case the new practice payment may be up to 65 percent.

(f) The new practice and enhancement components of the conservation stewardship contract payment may increase once the participant applies and agrees to maintain additional conservation practices and activities as described in the conservation stewardship plan.

(g) The Chief of NRCS may limit the stewardship, practice, and enhancement components of CSP payments in order to focus funding toward targeted activities and conservation benefits the Chief identifies in the sign-up notice and any subsequent addenda.

(h) In the event that annual funding is insufficient to fund existing contract commitments, the existing contracts will be pro-rated in that contract year.

(i) NRCS may not make any payments to participants for:

(1) Practices within their conservation stewardship plan that are required to meet conservation compliance requirements found in 7 CFR Part 12;

(2) Practices that are included in maintenance agreements (with financial reimbursements for maintenance) that existed prior to the conservation stewardship contract approval;

(3) Construction or maintenance of animal waste storage or treatment facilities or associated waste transport or transfer devices for animal feeding operations;

(4) The purchase or maintenance of equipment;

(5) A non-land based structure that is not integral to a land based practice, as determined by the Chief; or

(6) New practices that were applied with cost-share assistance through other USDA cost-share programs.