Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced a nationwide sign-up for the Conservation Security Program (CSP) that will be available to approximately 235,000 farmers and ranchers in 220 watersheds.

"As President Bush has stated, those who depend on the land to make a living are the best stewards of the land," said Johanns. "This is a unique program that offers payments for enhancing natural resources, rewards those farmers and ranchers who are model conservationists and provides incentives for other producers to meet those same high standards of environmental performance."

These 220 watersheds represent more than 185 million acres in every state and the Caribbean Area. The 2005 CSP sign-up includes the 202 watersheds announced by USDA on Nov. 2, 2004, and the 18 pioneer watersheds from the fiscal year 2004 sign-up. Producers who have a current CSP contract are not eligible for this sign-up.

Congress funded the fiscal year 2005 CSP budget at $202 million. This allows the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to write an estimated 12,000 to 14,000 contracts. Most working agricultural lands will be eligible, including cropland, orchards, vineyards, pasture and range.

Sign-up will be held March 28 to May 27. The sign-up announcement and an amendment to the CSP interim final rule that will detail specific program requirements will be published in the Federal Register soon.

Source: Government Release