USDA is making a commitment to expand enrollment in the fiscal year 2005 Conservation Security Program. During 2004, only 18 watersheds were eligible for participation. For 2005 that number is increased dramatically, allowing producers in 202 watersheds the chance to apply.
The selected watersheds represent nearly one-eighth or nearly 208,000 of the nation's potentially eligible farms and ranches covering more than 83 million acres in every state and the Caribbean area.
Authorized by the 2002 Farm Bill, the 2005 CSP will include a renewable energy component. Eligible farmers will receive compensation for converting to renewable energy fuels such as soy biodiesel and ethanol, for recycling 100% of on-farm lubricants, and for implementing energy production, including wind, solar, geothermal, and methane production.
A sign-up announcement will be published along with the final rule that will detail specific program requirements in the watersheds. The program will be offered each year on a rotational basis in as many watersheds as funding allows.
The funds that will be dedicated to CSP are part of the $1.6 billion in mandatory funding that Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman announced last week to help farmers and ranchers better plan their conservation efforts. USDA released these funds to help farmers and ranchers better plan their conservation efforts by knowing the initial mandatory program funding and technical assistance levels well before the next planting season begins, thus helping to connect their business decisions to protecting water, air, soil and wildlife.
Additional information on CSP, including a map of the fiscal year 2005 watersheds and eligibility requirements, is on the Web at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp.