Priority Watersheds Announced for CSP

See if your watershed is in the pool for potential 2004 funding. Jacqui Fatka

Published on: May 19, 2004

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is committed to implementing the Conservation Security Program (CSP) for this fiscal year. At the beginning of May the agency announced they would use priority watersheds to shrink the vast number of applicants to a select few for the first year.

Some have opposed the condition of using watersheds to prioritize the program that is designed to reward producers who incorporate the best conservation practices into their farming decisions.

NRCS Chief Bruce Knight explains focusing on watersheds allows NRCS the flexibility needed to expand the program as Congress makes more funds available. The U.S. Congress capped the fiscal year 2004 CSP budget at $41.4 million. This funding allows NRCS to write 3,000 to 5,000 contracts. Due to that limit on funding, USDA chose to offer the program in selected, priority watersheds.

"The watershed approach provides the necessary opening or narrowing of the gate as funding rises or falls," he explains. In addition, this approach allows landowners to assess the resources on their farms and ranches now and prepare early for participation in the program as their watersheds rotate into the program.

All CSP applications that meet the sign-up criteria will be placed in an enrollment category regardless of available funding. In addition to legal contract requirements, the categories will consider the applicants' current stewardship (soil condition, tillage intensity, existing practices and activities) and will sort producers based on these factors. Categories also will examine producers' willingness to perform additional conservation activities during their CSP contract.

Selected watersheds for the fiscal year 2004 CSP sign-up are:





South Carolina




Michigan / Indiana / Ohio

St. Joseph

Indiana / Ohio


Minnesota / Iowa

Blue Earth


Lower Chippewa

Illinois / Wisconsin


Missouri / Arkansas

Little River Ditches

Montana / North Dakota

Lower Yellowstone


East Nishnabotna

Nebraska / Kansas

Lower Little Blue

Oklahoma / Kansas

Lower Salt Fork Arkansas

New Mexico / Texas

Punta De Agua




Moses Coulee





In order to implement CSP this fiscal year, NRCS will begin to train employees within the priority watersheds immediately on the basics of the program; detailed training will occur once the interim final rule is published in early summer. A sign-up announcement will be published along with the interim final rule that will detail the specific program requirements within the priority watersheds.

The program will be offered each year, on a rotational basis in as many watersheds are funded. Additional information on CSP, including the Federal Register notices, public comments and frequently asked questions, is at