Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
3040 Continental Drive
Butte, MT 59701
Conservation Security Program (CSP) and Organic Farmers
FY 2005 CSP funding is set and will be supporting many
great conservation farmers and ranchers in the 212 designated
watersheds nation wide. Organic producers as a group
are some of the best conservation farmers and ranchers
in the nation (almost by definition). Sign-up for CSP
will be beginning soon in these 212 watersheds nation
Accessing the resources of this program is, in part,
recognition of the wonderful environmental services
that organic producers have provided to society for
the last several decades. These are real resources.
Here in Montana where I live, the AVERAGE value of a
10 year CSP contract in FY 2004 was worth $261,225!
However, dealing with the Natural Resources Conservation
Service bureaucracy and its paper work can be a daunting.
Also, because organic growers have not often accessed
federal program benefits in the past, it may be a new
experience for an organic producer to deal with NRCS
and often for NRCS to deal with organic producers. Some
basic steps to help are:
1. Find out if you are in one of the designated CSP
watersheds. At least 50% of the farm or ranch must be
within the watershed. Remember watersheds DON’T
follow county lines. If you have access to the Internet
then go to www.nrcs.usda.gov click on programs and click
on CSP and you will get a map. OR go to your states
NRCS web site and there should be details there as well.
Montana's NRCS CSP site is done very well and can be
accessed at www.mt.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp/. Other
state NRCS offices should have this sites as well.
2. Call your local NRCS staff person and ask when the
CSP workshop is going to be held in your designated
watershed, these have started in Montana.
3. There have been some initial “screening”
questions that have been set up that largely are intended
to keep out folks who probably don’t qualify.
HOWEVER, DON’T worry about those questions. If
you are a certified organic producer you will are HIGHLY
likely to be eligible. If they give you’re a hard
time about it, call or email me. I want to hear the
4. Although theoretically the CSP is farm or ranch
size neutral, benefits are likely to be more substantial
if you are a larger operation. Nevertheless, find out
what you are entitled to receive from the CSP and make
the decision to participate only after NRCS assesses
what your benefits are likely to be. THIS is an entitlement
program. What that means is that if you meet eligibility
requirements you are entitled to a payments.
5. If you are certified organic and you are in a designated
CSP watershed, don’t give up and don’t take
no from any NRCS employee. If you don’t get satisfactory
answers from one NRCS employees move up the change of
command. Some bureaucrats are really good at ignoring
folks or confusing them. Don’t be put off, persevere.
6. You don’t have to be a certified organic producer
to receive benefits under this program, most sustainable
conservation practices should make you eligible.
Please contact me with any experiences you care to share
about your efforts to access CSP. We want this program
to work for organic and sustainable farmers and ranchers