JACKSON, Miss. - Nov. 15, 2016 - Mississippi rice producers can sign-up for a new conservation program through the end of December. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications for the new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) as part of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) funding awarded to the USA Rice - Ducks Unlimited Stewardship Partnership.

The RCPP assists landowners and rice producers who voluntarily implement conservation and management practices that improve irrigation water management, control sediment and nutrient runoff, and provide waterfowl habitat on rice production lands. A main goal is to reduce groundwater demand in the alluvial aquifer from rice production to ensure sustainability of the water source for future rice production.

New CSP updates include methods and software for evaluating applications designed to assist producers in determining if and when they are meeting stewardship thresholds. The tools allow producers to pick practices and enhancements that work for their individual conservation objectives and see potential payment scenarios early in the process. NRCS encourages producers, through CSP, to adopt the cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques that include irrigation water management, precision agriculture applications, new soil amendments to improve water quality, and more.

"This year, the Conservation Stewardship Program will provide more opportunities for conservation and greater flexibility at the local level to prioritize resource concerns and conservation approaches," stated Kurt Readus, state conservationist for Mississippi. "Customized CSP tools for Mississippi will improve the customer experience during the application evaluation process."

This special RCPP CSP sign-up is targeted for rice production acreage in 10 counties over the alluvial aquifer that produces rice. These counties include Bolivar, Coahoma, Humphreys, Leflore, Quitman, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tunica and Washington. The project will provide a special CSP allotment of 12,000 acres in 2017 to Mississippi Delta rice growers.

The application deadline for this special RCPP CSP is Dec. 30, for the first ranking pool. NRCS operates under a continuous sign-up, however specific deadlines are used for ranking, contracting and funding. Additional ranking pools and deadlines may be established if more acres are available.

People interested in the additional state or initiative-based opportunities the updated CSP will offer can find information on the new CSP portal at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/csp. This one-stop shop, which provides information to help producers determine whether CSP is right for them, will be continually updated as more information becomes available. Changes that producers can expect to see include nearly double the enhancements and conservation practices offered and better reporting tools to tell producers the results of their conservation efforts on their land.

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 13.8 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.