Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced on June 6 the funding of 4,404 Conservation Security Program (CSP) contracts across the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam.

The FY 2006 CSP contracts offered cover more than 3.7 million acres of private land in 60 watersheds nationwide, which translates to nearly a $440 million long-term investment in conservation over the next 10 years. USDA expects to fully invest the $259 million provided by Congress for FY 2006. That amount covers prior CSP contracts and includes $50 million for FY 2006 contracts.

CSP is a voluntary conservation program that rewards private landowners for their ongoing stewardship of natural resources. CSP touches all agricultural production sectors from livestock operations to cropland and from orchards and vineyards to sugar bush and nursery crops. The 2006 contracts encourage them to further conserve and improve soil, water, air, energy, plant and animal life and other conservation purposes on their operations, while, at the same time, creating incentives for other producers to meet those same standards of conservation performance.

More than 8,570 applications were received during the FY 2006 CSP sign-up. 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.

Payments will be made under three tiers of conservation contracts capped at $20,000, $35,000 and $45,000 annually. CSP contracts last for five years for Tier I contracts and 5-10 years for Tier II and Tier III contracts. Enrollment data for FY 2006 show that 99.6% of the applications approved include the complete agricultural operation, falling into the Tier III category for the most advanced conservationists. CSP will be available each year on a rotational basis in as many watersheds as funding allows.

Additional information on CSP, including the self-assessment workbook and Federal Register notice, is at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp.