Conservation Security Program expands reach more than ten-fold
The 18 eliglible watersheds of 2004 balloons to 202 in 2005; fight is still on to restore all watersheds to list

CANTON, Minnesota, November 4, 2004: Overlooking a backdrop of productive pastures and cropland on the Dan and Cara Miller farm in the Root River watershed of southeast Minnesota, Natural Resources Conservation Service Associate Chief Merlin Bartz will announce the nation’s approved watershed list for the 2005 Conservation Security Program on November 5, 2004.

Expanding from the 2004 sign-up when only 18 watersheds were eligible, the 2005 sign-up will be coming to 202 watersheds, about ten percent of the nation’s watersheds. In Minnesota, the Redeye, Red Lake, Redwood, Sauk and Root River watersheds were chosen based on land use criteria that will enable many more farmers to enroll. Visit the NCRS website at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp for the complete list of eligible watersheds.

“The criteria used to pick the 2005 watersheds, such as diversity in the landscape, the recent history of producers utilizing state and federal conservation cost share programs, and areas of low soil erosion rates relative to potential soil erosion, are evident in the management practices of the producers in these watersheds,” said Tim Gieseke, Agriculture and Environmental Policy Specialist at the Minnesota Project. “Since the Conservation Security Program is not yet being administered as a nation-wide conservation program open to all farmers, as passed into law by Congress, it is imperative that watersheds with excellent conservation farming and high eligibility are included in the limited signup.” The Root River watershed, for example, has many farms with crop rotations, managed livestock grazing, grass buffers along creeks and sinkholes, contour strip farming, and other practices that maximize clean water and wildlife habitat. Now more farmers will receive the financial assistance they need to improve their practices.

The NRCS State Technical Committee, an open forum in which suggestions and ideas are brought forward to the NRCS State Conservationist Bill Hunt, developed these criteria for watershed selection.

The 2004 sign-up was considered a pilot program in which farmers in just 18 watersheds nation-wide were eligible to apply. Many recommendations were made at the local and national level prior to the expansion of watersheds for 2005. In addition, NRCS is now considering an unprecedented outpouring of some 12,000 public comments on their proposed rules for the program, comments aimed at making the Conservation Security Program the centerpiece of conservation policy.

“We are making progress,” said Mike McGrath, Agriculture Policy Specialist with the Minnesota Project. “We had a successful 2004 signup with the pilot program, and now the 2005 signup is on track to becoming a successful working demonstration of how this new approach to farm policy will pay farmers significant financial rewards for providing top-notch care of the land, water, and air. We expect to see broad-based support from this Administration to develop the Conservation Security Program into the nationwide conservation program that Congress intended.”


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