Nebraskaâ€™s second time around in USDAâ€™s Conservation Security Program (CSP) involves much of the Blue River Basin.
USDA selected 202 watersheds nationally to be part of the 2005 CSP enrollment process. Of that total, four watersheds in Nebraskaâ€™s Blue River Basin are included. That makes landowners in the following counties eligible to apply: Pawnee, Gage, Jefferson, Saline, Lancaster, Seward, Butler, Polk, York, Fillmore, Clay, Hamilton, Hall and Adams (see accompanying map).
Under CSP, farmers with approved applications receive annual payments to maintain or add soil conservation and water quality practices. Itâ€™s the so-called "green payment" concept, created under the 2002 Farm Bill, in which landowners are rewarded for good resource stewardship.
In the 2005 program, about 5,369 Nebraska farms covering 2.8 million acres will can apply for CSP contracts. A sign-up period is expected this winter, perhaps as early as January.
The 5,000-plus farms comprise about one-eight of the stateâ€™s farming and ranching operations, says Pat McGrane, state NRCS spokesman. CSP will be offered annually on a rotational basis, equal to approximately one-eight of the farmers and ranchers on each state.
CSP most likely will once again offer three "tiers" of payment levels, based on the conservation and management in a farm or ranch and the specific resources protected. In the 2004 pilot watersheds, there was a base payment for each tier, plus an enhancement, or bonus, payment for certain practices.
In the acceptance criteria, NRCS officials stress the importance of having good records on hand, including soil test results, pasture rotation logs, fertilizer applications and water meter records.
It may be late spring before NRCS knows how many contracts were signed in Nebraska and, as a result, how much federal CSP money came to the state.