Conservation Security Program Sign-up

The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) initiated a “Watershed” approach in 2004 for implementation of the Conservation Security Program (CSP) that was part of the 2002 Farm Bill. Under this approach, a total of 18 watersheds were selected nationwide for the first CSP sign-up in 2004. Now an additional 202 Watersheds in the U.S. were selected for the second CSP sign-up in 2005. For 2006, CSP will offered in an additional 60 watersheds nationwide. Sign-up for 2006 CSP in the eligible watersheds will be Feb. 13-March 31, 2006.

The watershed approach was chosen by NRCS to implement CSP in a staged fashion, with new watersheds being added each year. This will help focus the limited annual funding allocations for CSP to the highest targeted areas for conservation enhancement, as well as allowing limited NRCS staff adequate time to properly administer CSP and to provide necessary technical assistance to participating producers. Once CSP is fully implemented, NRCS hopes to offer it in about one-eighth of the nation’s 2,119 watersheds each year. So, in theory, all eligible producers should get a chance to enroll in CSP over an eight-year period. Currently, there are 11 million CSP acres in 220 watersheds in the U.S.

CSP was a new conservation provision that was included in the 2002 Farm Bill, and is intended to encourage conservation practices on working crop land. Under CSP, producers are eligible to receive annual payments for implementation of various conservation practices to address natural resource concerns in their farm operation. Eligible CSP land includes private agricultural lands and some tribal lands. USDA has targeted $13.4 billion in funding over the next seven years. Congress has set spending for the program at $202 million for fiscal year 2005, which is 500% higher than the $41 million CSP funding cap in 2004. However, the 2005 funding allocation for CSP was still $80 million below the target funding level set in the 2002 Farm Bill.

Editors note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com.