Eligible farmers will have two additional weeks to sign up for USDA's Conservation Security Program (CSP) for fiscal year 2008. Arlen Lancaster, chief of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced that the sign up will end on May 30, 2008.
Farmers in 51 eligible watersheds nationwide can sign up. In Iowa, the Middle Iowa Watershed, located in east central Iowa, is the only eligible watershed for the 2008 sign up. The Middle Iowa is in Grundy, Story, Marshall, Tama, Benton, Linn, Jasper, Poweshiek, Iowa and Johnson Counties, says Tom O'Connor, CSP manager for NRCS in Iowa.
A sign-up extension announcement is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on May 9, 2008. Originally, the CSP sign-up was scheduled to run from April 18-May 16, 2008.
Extension gives farmers more time
"NRCS recognizes the inopportune timing of this year's sign-up and that farmers and ranchers are busy in their fields. We want to give them as much time as possible," Lancaster said on May 7. "We are extending the sign-up as much as possible to allow producers adequate time to gather natural resource information and complete the required self-assessment and applicant interview. This two-week extension represents the fullest accommodation we can make and deliver a program this year."
Natural disasters—such as excessive spring rains and flooding in certain parts of the country that caused delays in planting—also played a role in the decision to extend the sign-up, Lancaster said. As a result, many farmers and ranchers had little time to gather their records to meet the CSP sign-up requirements.
CSP, a voluntary conservation program, encourages and rewards producers who practice outstanding stewardship on working agricultural land by offering financial incentives that increase with the level of conservation effort. Soil and water quality are the primary focus of this program; however, program goals also include improved wildlife habitat, air quality, and environmentally responsible energy production.
USDA-NRCS began CSP in fiscal year 2004. Currently, there are 331 enrolled watersheds covering nearly 248 million acres eligible for CSP nationwide. These numbers include the 51 watersheds in this fiscal year's sign-up and their acreage, which were first announced in September 2006. For more information about CSP and eligibility requirements, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp.