There's been a lot of talk about the Conservation Security Program (CSP) over the last few years, but now the program is up and running and coming to a watershed near you. For 2005, $194 million has been dedicated to CSP, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

The program began in 2004 with 18 watersheds, but in 2005 CSP is rolling out in full force. Nearly one-eighth of U.S. farms and ranches will be included in the 202 watersheds that are part of the 2005 program.

Sign up will take place this winter, according to Craig Derickson, CSP national manager.

“NRCS will work to complete the CSP rulemaking and be in a position to release the final rule and a sign-up notice to the Federal Register in early 2005,” he says. “At that point, we would be ready for a CSP sign-up in the winter of 2005 — hopefully well in advance of spring field work and planting.”

Next year's program will also 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.

“Through CSP, NRCS is encouraging farmers and ranchers to review how they use energy in their operations and look for ways to reduce costs, improve energy efficiency and reduce impact on the environment,” says Derickson. “An energy audit is the first step in energy management. Operators need to know current energy use before changes in efficiency can be measured.”

Specifics about the enhancements to be offered in 2005 will be available in each state by the time a sign-up is published, Derickson says.

Obviously, ramping up the delivery of CSP so quickly is a major challenge for NRCS. Derickson says they will “work hard to ensure that all offices in the selected watersheds are brought up to speed through rollout and training activities in time for the winter sign-up.”

For a list of watersheds included in the 2005 program, and more general information about the CSP program, go to www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp.