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46189

CSP isn't dead yet

The 2002 farm bill's working lands program may be facing a battle for survival as the 2007 farm bill is written. The House version of the bill doesn't authorize spending on the Conservation Security Program until 2012.

But on Tuesday, the USDA breathed some life back into the program when Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced the release of additional funding for Conservation Security Program (CSP) implementation.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) got $115 million for CSP added to an Iraq war funding bill passed by Congress this spring (the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act).

In a statement, Harkin encouraged producers to take advantage of open enrollment in the Conservation Security Program (CSP) announced by the USDA.

"The Conservation Security Program pays proactive farmers and ranchers for good conservation, and it is important that the USDA continues to enroll new producers and fully honors its commitments to those who are already enrolled in CSP," said Harkin. "Farmers like CSP, they grasp it and they see the vision of it. Yet previous spending bills shortchanged the program and prevented it from reaching its full potential."

"This new funding helps restore confidence in CSP by continuing to enroll new producers and fulfilling all existing obligations under these contracts," he said. "I thank Secretary Johanns for his willingness to increase investments in conservation and work to get this enrollment accomplished and I commend him for finding a way to accomplish this given the end of the fiscal year. I encourage producers to take advantage of this open enrollment."

"Through our actions today, the Conservation Security Program will fully realize the promise to recognize and award those producers that demonstrate conservation excellence," Johanns said Tuesday. "These steps represent a way to bring the past program to completion, and set the stage for the future of CSP, beyond passage of the farm bill."

USDA now has sufficient funds to fully pay for all existing CSP contracts, including all contract modifications, as well as providing the funds necessary to carry out an enrollment for the already-announced watersheds eligible in 2007. Until this bill was passed, providing some $115 million in added funding, money was not available for the 2007 enrollment announced last fall before new fiscal year began.

Johanns said that funds will be made available for both the completion of payments on Fiscal year 2007 CSP contracts as well as to prepare for a future program signup. Specifically, $35 million has been made available to complete payments to producers who received only partial funding for their fiscal year 2007 payment.

In addition, $2.93 million is being made available to help producers and Natural Resources Conservation Service field staff prepare for a future program signup in the 51 watersheds previously identified for FY 2007, which represents lands in all 50 states, the Pacific Islands and the Caribbean Area. These watersheds represent more than 64,500 of the nation's potentially eligible farms and ranches, covering nearly 24 million acres of cropland and grazing land.

Click here for a list of the eligible watersheds. USDA offers CSP in new watersheds annually on a rotational basis in as many watersheds as funding allows. Click here for more information about CSP, including a map of targeted watersheds and eligibility requirements.

CSP is a voluntary program that supports ongoing conservation stewardship on private agricultural working lands and enhances the condition of the nation's natural resources. Under this program, USDA rewards producers who practice good stewardship on agricultural lands and offers incentives to increase the use of conservation practices. The USDA farm bill proposal calls for substantial reform and improvement of the Conservation Security Program with a goal of conducting nationwide signups in the future.

The 2002 farm bill's working lands program may be facing a battle for survival as the 2007 farm bill is written. The House version of the bill doesn't authorize spending on the Conservation Security Program until 2012.

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