DAVIS, Calif., Nov. 14, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California will now accept and process applications for enrollment in the updated Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the nation's largest conservation program by acreage. NRCS has made several updates to the program this year to help producers better evaluate their conservation options and the benefits to their operations and natural resources. New methods and software for evaluating applications will help producers see up front why they are or are not meeting stewardship thresholds, and allow them to pick practices and enhancements that work for their conservation objectives. These new tools also allow producers to see potential payment scenarios for conservation early in the process. "The program will provide California's farmers and ranchers even more opportunities for conservation and greater flexibility at the local level to prioritize resource concerns and conservation approaches," said Carlos Suarez, NRCS California state conservationist. "Locally customized CSP tools will also improve the customer experience during application evaluations." Through CSP, agricultural customers earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat - all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land. CSP also encourages the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques such as precision agriculture applications, on-site carbon storage and planting for high carbon sequestration rate, and new soil amendments to improve water quality. NRCS has addressed producer and stakeholder input requesting greater flexibility to address local resource concerns. Now, NRCS will more effectively utilize input from farmers, ranchers and partners in State Technical Committees and local workgroups to inform and expand conservation strategies under the program. Producers will be better prepared to apply because they will know these local ranking priorities and targeted resource concerns in advance.