The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) opened the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) on Monday, for new enrollments for federal fiscal year 2014. Now, through Jan. 17, 2014, producers interested in participating in the program can submit applications to NRCS.“Through the Conservation Stewardship Program, farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners are going the extra mile to conserve our nation’s resources,” NRCS Chief Jason Weller said in a news release earlier this week. “Through their conservation actions, they are ensuring that their operations are more productive and sustainable over the long run.”The CSP is a Farm Bill conservation program that helps established conservation stewards take their natural resource management to the next level. The goal is to improve both their agricultural production and provide valuable conservation benefits such as, cleaner and more abundant water, as well as healthier soils and better wildlife habitat.CSP is now in its fifth year and so far, NRCS has partnered with producers to enroll more than 59 million acres across the nation.The program emphasizes conservation performance — producers earn higher payments for higher performance. In CSP, producers install conservation enhancements to make positive changes in soil quality, soil erosion, water quality, water quantity, air quality, plant resources, animal resources and energy.Some popular enhancements used by farmers and ranchers include:• Using new nozzles that reduce the drift of pesticides, lowering input costs and making sure pesticides are used where they are most needed• Modifying water facilities to prevent bats and bird species from being trapped• Burning patches of land, mimicking prairie fires to enhance wildlife habitat• Rotating feeding areas and monitoring key grazing areas to improve grazing management.While local NRCS offices accept CSP applications year round, NRCS evaluates applications during announced ranking periods.A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, stewardship threshold requirements and payment types.Learn more about CSP by visiting the NRCS website or a local NRCS field office.