Nearly 2,200 farmers and ranchers have been selected as the first participants in the Conservation Security Program (CSP). The privately-owned land impacted by the new program covers nearly 1.9 million acres in the 18 watersheds in 22 states selected for the fiscal year 2004 CSP sign-up. USDA expects to fully use the $41 million provided by Congress for this program.
"USDA has accepted all eligible CSP applications that were submitted during the first sign-up period," Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman said in a broadcasted statement on Thursday. "The participating agricultural producers are model conservationists who have set the twin goals of productivity and conservation for their operations."
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Jim Moseley will sign a ceremonial "first contract" with James and Peggy Pahl at their farm in the Blue Earth Watershed in Vernon Center, Minn., today. Other USDA officials will participate in similar events nationwide, including Mark Rey, under secretary for natural resources and environment, in the Raystown Watershed in Pennsylvania, and Bruce Knight, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) chief, in the Lower Chippewa Watershed in Wisconsin and the East Nishnabotna Watershed in Iowa.
Payments will begin immediately under three tiers of conservation contracts capped at $20,000, $35,000 and $45,000 annually. Contracts will last for five years for Tier I and 5-10 years for Tier II and Tier III.
Enrollment data show that 37% of the applicants qualify for Tier I, 40% for Tier II and 23% for Tier III. The sign-up response indicates that some of the best conservationists are willing to do even more conservation through CSP. Environmental enhancement activities offered by applicants include improving soil quality, water quality, wildlife habitat management, nutrient and pest management, air quality management and on-farm energy management.
CSP will be available each year on a rotational basis in as many watersheds as funding allows. Additional information on CSP is at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp.