Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, announced last week that restored funding for the Conservation Security Program, or CSP, will allow USDA to meet contract obligations and open up the program to farmers for new enrollments this year.
Congress recently passed a budget supplemental bill that included additional funding for the Conservation Security Program, the country's first comprehensive working lands conservation program. Farmers who have modified their CSP contracts by adding new conservation practices to their farms will receive full program support. The restored program funding will also allow farmers in selected watersheds to apply to the program.
"The CSP promotes innovative conservation practices on working agricultural lands to protect our environment," says Teresa Opheim, executive director of Practical Farmers of Iowa. "By restoring funding for the program, Congress will ensure that farmers in Iowa can continue to have access to the Conservation Security Program."
The Conservation Security Program was created in the 2002 Farm Bill and is up for reauthorization in the 2007 Farm Bill, which is currently being debated in Congress. In Iowa, 2,393 farms are enrolled in the program, totaling over 748,890 acres. Nationwide, nearly 20,000 farms are enrolled in the program, totaling 16 million acres.
USDA selected the Middle Iowa Watershed as the watershed eligible for the 2007 Conservation Security Program sign-up in Iowa. This watershed is located in parts of Story, Marshall, Grundy, Tama, Jasper, Poweshiek, Benton, Iowa, Linn and Johnson counties in central and eastern Iowa. Farmers within the watershed may apply for the program and if they meet the minimum conservation standards may be eligible for participation in the program. Details on timing of the sign-up period for the watershed are still forthcoming.
"By bringing the Conservation Security Program to the Middle Iowa Watershed, we have the opportunity to create significant incentives for farmers to protect the river's water quality," says Opheim. "We are pleased to hear that Congress has restored funding and that farmers in this watershed will now have an opportunity to enroll in the Conservation Security Program."
A recent study of the Conservation Security Program, conducted by Practical Farmers of Iowa and project partners in four other Midwestern states, found that once enrolled in the program, the majority of farmers are adding new conservation practices to their operations. For information on the report's findings, go to www.practicalfarmers.org/resource/PFIResource_163.pdf.