Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced the watersheds eligible for the fiscal year 2005 Conservation Security Program (CSP) sign-up to be held this winter. Two hundred two watersheds have been selected representing nearly one-eighth or nearly 208,000 of the nation's potentially eligible farms and ranches covering more than 83 million acres in every state and the Caribbean area.

"This voluntary program supports ongoing stewardship of working agricultural lands by providing payments for maintaining and enhancing natural resources," Veneman said. "Resource conservation improves water, air and soil quality, gives us healthier landscapes and promotes wildlife habitat."

Authorized by the 2002 Farm Bill, the 2005 CSP will include a renewable energy component. Eligible farmers will receive compensation for converting to renewable energy fuels such as soy bio-diesel and ethanol, for recycling 100 percent of on-farm lubricants, and for implementing energy production, including wind, solar, geothermal, and methane production.

A sign-up announcement will be published along with the final rule that will detail specific program requirements in the watersheds. The program will be offered each year on a rotational basis in as many watersheds as funding allows.

The funds that will be dedicated to CSP are part of the $1.6 billion in mandatory funding that Veneman announced last week to help farmers and ranchers better plan their conservation efforts. USDA released these funds to help farmers and ranchers better plan their conservation efforts by knowing the initial mandatory program funding and technical assistance levels well before the next planting season begins, thus helping to connect their business decisions to protecting water, air, soil and wildlife.

Additional information on CSP, including a map of the fiscal year 2005 watersheds and eligibility requirements, is on the Web at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp.