USDA Secretary Ann Veneman announced the release of the proposed rule, which is available at www.nrcs.usda.gov. The rule will be formally published in the Federal Register and has a 60-day comment period.

NCGA Production & Stewardship Action Team Chairman Ron Fitchhorn noted the team will carefully review the proposal and has designated a special team to conduct an initial review.

"We have been waiting for this proposed rule for a long time and are hopeful CSP will provide the conservation benefits and financial incentives as promised by the 2002 farm bill,” Fitchhorn says. β€œIt’s a great return on the conservation practices growers implement.”

As proposed, CSP will be available only in priority watersheds across the nation. The specific watersheds have not yet been identified. Producers within the selected watersheds will be eligible to submit an application once they meet certain eligibility criteria and complete a benchmark inventory documenting the current conservation practices they are using on their land. NRCS will provide the materials necessary for completing the inventory prior to the first sign up.

The program will be managed as a capped entitlement program. Participation will be limited based on location within a selected watershed and willingness to participate in the tiers. The Omnibus Appropriations bill would provide $41.4 million for the program for FY 2004. The bill has passed the House but is still pending in the Senate.