NB_300_19_22 - NB 300-19-22 LTP – Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 CSP General, LCI, and RCPP-CSP Application and Contract Obligation
NB 300-19-22 LTP – Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 CSP General, LCI, and RCPP-CSP Application and Contract Obligation
National Bulletin: 300-19-22    Date: April 9, 2019
Subject: LTP – Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 CSP General, LCI, and RCPP-CSP Application and Contract Obligation  

Action Required By:  May 10, 2019, and September 14, 2019
Purpose.  To provide national guidance on the evaluation of new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) applications and to establish deadlines for completing actions required for FY 2019 fund obligation.      
Expiration Date.   September 30, 2019   
Background.  The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Act), authorizes NRCS to accept new CSP enrollments in FYs 2019-2023. Through the transition authority provided in the 2018 Act, Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects with agreements entered into prior to September 30, 2018, may continue to enter into new RCPP-CSP contracts with eligible producers. These new RCPP-CSP applications and contracts will be administered under the CSP authority provided through the 2018 Act.

Explanation.   States will use the information contained in this bulletin along with policy contained in Title 440, Conservation Programs Manual, Part 507; training; and FY 2019 signup documents posted on the CSP SharePoint site to prepare for and implement the CSP 2019-1 General, Landscape Conservation Initiative (LCI), and RCPP-CSP signups. Significant changes made in the 2018 Act include the following:

• CSP is no longer an acre-based program.
• NRCS will commit the funds required for all 5 years of the contract at the time of contract obligation.
• NRCS will offer higher payment rates for certain activities. See the section on payment rates for additional information.

 Required Actions:
Signup Announcement and Application Cutoff Dates
• Signup opportunity for CSP and RCPP-CSP will be announced nationally with an application batching deadline of May 10, 2019.
• Following the national signup announcement, States will announce a single CSP signup cutoff to consider applications for CSP General and LCI in FY 2019.
• States must not announce RCPP-CSP signups until they receive further guidance.
• States must obligate all FY 2019 CSP (including LCI) and RCPP-CSP contracts selected for funding by September 14, 2019.
• States must establish internal deadlines to complete application management actions prior to the established national obligation deadline.

Screening Questionnaires (Tools)
• NRCS authorizes State conservationists to develop screening tools to prioritize workload for the CSP General signup.
• NRCS authorizes State conservationists and partners to develop screening tools for use in existing RCPP-CSP projects to prioritize workload and determine applicability to the RCPP Project.
• States may not use screening tools to determine program eligibility.
• Refer to 440-CPM-512-C-512.25 for guidance on development of screening tools. Contact FAPD for assistance, as needed.
• Screening priority will not supersede veteran farmer or rancher priority as described in the veteran farmers or ranchers’ section below.
• Keep completed screening tools in the applicant file per policy in 440-CPM-507-H-507.70.

Preobligation Checklist
• FAPD is currently updating the preobligation checklist found at 440-CPM-507-M-507.131 for FY 2019.
• FAPD will notify States once the updated checklist is available in eDirectives.

Conservation Activity Evaluation Tool (CAET)
• States will develop and release State-specific land use templates in CAET prior to May 10, 2019.
• States will develop and release at least two evaluation sets for the CSP-2019-1 signup. These will be NIPF and agricultural land.
• States may develop additional evaluation sets as needed including those required for RCPP- CSP-2019-1. If a ranking pool has unique targeted priority resource concerns, a unique evaluation set is required for that ranking pool.
• States may not utilize CSP-2019-1 evaluation sets to evaluate RCPP-CSP applications.
• The CAET will continue to submit data to the ProTracts CAET Summary report. Users will need to enter pastured cropland acres into the CAET Summary report manually. Users may adjust acres in all land uses without resubmitting the CAET as long as acres are not adjusted to zero.
• The payment estimator in CAET has been updated with current prices. CSP will obligate funds for all contract years at time of obligation. Therefore, users should use the total cost for all five years as the estimated cost in ProTracts.
• Refer to the “CSP Users Guide” in the “CAET Reference Material” folder on the CSP SharePoint for more information.

Update State Web Page
• State conservationists must update State web site, in accordance with policy in 440-CPM-507- D-507.32
• States are encouraged to link directly to the National CSP web page for non-State-specific information to the maximum extent practical.

Ranking Pools and ProTracts Subaccounts
• The ProTracts subaccounts used for FY 2018-1 General and LCI have been copied forward for use in FY 2019. States must review, make edits as needed, and release all applicable subaccounts prior to May 10, 2019.
• For the LCI, States must establish subaccounts with the following naming convention: “[LCI acronym]–[Ag Land or NIPF]–[General, BFR or SDFR]”
Examples: “MRBI–Ag Land–BFR” or “LLPI-NIPF-General”
• States will utilize existing RCPP-CSP sub accounts for applications tied to prior-year agreements.

Veteran Farmer or Rancher Priority
• A veteran farmer or rancher is defined as—
o A producer who served in the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard, including the reserve components thereof, and was released from the service under conditions other than dishonorable, and—
 Has not operated a farm or ranch; or has operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 years; or
 Who first obtained status as a veteran during the most recent 10-year period.
• Eligible applications for veteran farmers or ranchers will be assigned “High Priority” in the appropriate beginning farmer or rancher and socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher ranking pools as described in 440-CPM-507-H-507.77.

Landscape Conservation Initiatives
• States may request not to participate in the FY 2019 CSP-LCI enrollment option. Requests should be routed through the regional conservationist, Areawide Planning Branch, and the FAPD Implementation Branch.
• LCI applicants must complete the appropriate screening questionnaire and agree to the terms included therein before NRCS can determine if the applicant is eligible for inclusion in the LCI ranking pool.
• The following LCI initiatives are available under the 2019-1 General signup. The listed States will have a designated fund allocation as specified in future correspondence, if they opt to participate in FY 2019:
o Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative (LPCI), POCs: Tim Griffiths – Colorado and Texas
o Longleaf Pine Initiative (LLPI), POC: Bridgett Costanzo – Alabama, Florida, Georgia,
Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia
o Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI), POCs: Thad Heater or Tim Griffiths – Colorado, Idaho,
Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming
o Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI), POC: Dee Carlson - Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin
• Each LCI has identified the land uses, five targeted resource concerns, and AERT local questions that participating States will use for that initiative. LCIs may identify test statements in the CAET that States must set as State-Yes for that LCI’s CAET templates. NHQ will post information specific for each initiative on the CSP SharePoint site.
• States must return LCI financial assistance (FA) and technical assistance (TA) funds that cannot be utilized in the associated LCI. Further guidance will be provided for the process to return LCI funds.
• States may supplement the initiative ranking pools with funds from their general allocation.
• Please direct other CSP LCI questions to Barry Frantz with the Areawide Planning Branch.

Regional Conservation Partnership Program
• States must not announce RCPP-CSP signups until they receive further guidance.
• Existing partner projects approved under the previous Farm Bill must be modified to convert remaining acres to dollars. The Projects Branch will provide additional guidance on this process.
• Applications for projects that were previously approved will be entered as RCPP-CSP 2014 applications in the FY 2019-1 signup.

Application Evaluation and Ranking Tool (AERT)
• Ranking tools used in FY 2018 that are copied to FY 2019 prior to March 31, 2019 (as described in the March 12, 2019, FAPD), will be migrated to CSP2018 FY 19 by support. If States failed to copy ranking tools used in FY 2018 prior to this migration, the ranking tools will need to be created as new ranking tools.
• States may update local issue questions before releasing the ranking tools in ProTracts.
• For LCI ranking pools, States will enter the LCI local questions available on the CSP SharePoint site for the specific initiative. States will not develop their own local questions for the LCI ranking pools.
• States should utilize the Applicable Activities by RC Cause for States file located on the CSP SharePoint site when setting applicable activity-resource concern interactions in AERT.
• States will use the efficiency database to determine the efficiency score to be entered into AERT. The efficiency database may be found on USDA Connect. For more information on the use of the efficiency database please contact your State payment specialist.
• States will also use the efficiency score as a tie breaker when two or more applications have the same ranking score. The application with the highest efficiency score will be funded first.

Signup Documents available on the CSP SharePoint site

• Activity List for Planners*
• Activity list for Participants*
• Enhancement Compatibility Matrix*
• Enhancement Job Sheets**
• Bundle Job Sheets**
• 2019 CSP State Cost Lists
*Note: Available in Excel to allow States to edit to only include the activities available in the State.
**Note: These will also be uploaded to the National CSP Website as soon as possible.

Payment Rates
• There are no changes to the existing activity payment rates for FY 2019.
• Additional activity and supplemental payment rates are included in the State cost lists. For FY 2019, cover crop activity payment rates were adjusted to 125 percent of the estimated cost of typical implementation and supplemental payment rates for Resource Conserving Crop Rotations (RCCRs) and Improved RCCR (IRCCRs) were adjusted to 150 percent of the estimated cost of typical implementation.
• The 2019 State cost lists have been uploaded to ProTracts and were provided to States to use in Toolkit.
• Users must ensure that they select the correct cost list in ProTracts as there may be more than one available.

Allocation Monitoring
• Once determined, NHQ will provide fund allocations to States for CSP General, LCI, and RCPP- CSP (if appropriate). FAPD will provide additional guidance to States explaining the process to request allocation adjustments.
• States that do not have enough eligible applications to use their entire allocation must return excess FA and associated TA funds as soon as possible to allow for redistribution to other States.
• NHQ will periodically evaluate State obligation rates beginning in June to determine the need for fund reallocation.
• States will be provided additional guidance for requesting allocation adjustments early enough to allow adequate time for states accepting additional funds to complete all obligations prior to the September 14, 2019, deadline.     

Contact.   Questions about this bulletin should be directed through the appropriate State contact to the FAPD SharePoint.     


 Deputy Chief for Programs   


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