Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA is encouraging farmers to take advantage of open enrollment in USDA's Conservation Security Program, or CSP, as the new enrollment opportunity was announced August 7 by USDA.
Harkin secured funding for this enrollment in an appropriations bill that passed Congress in June. He has been working with USDA since that time to release the funding and commended the August 7 action by USDA Secretary Mike Johanns. "The CSP pays proactive farmers and ranchers for good conservation, and it is important that USDA continues to enroll new producers and fully honors its commitments to those who are already enrolled in CSP," says Harkin. "Farmers like the CSP, they grasp it and they see the vision of it. Yet previous federal spending bills have shortchanged the program and the lack of funding has prevented it from reaching its full potential."
Program limited by lack of funding
He adds, "This new funding helps restore confidence in CSP by continuing to enroll new producers and fulfilling all existing obligations under these contracts. I thank Secretary Johanns for his willingness to increase investments in conservation and his work to get this enrollment accomplished. I commend him for finding a way to accomplish this funding for the program, given the end of the fiscal year. I encourage farmers to take advantage of this open enrollment."
The U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act provided sufficient funding needed to fully pay for all existing CSP contracts, including all contract modifications, as well as providing the funds necessary to carry out an enrollment for the already-announced watersheds eligible in 2007. Until this bill was passed, providing some $115 million in added funding, money was not available for the 2007 enrollment announced last fall before new fiscal year began.
As Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in 2002, Senator Harkin was instrumental in writing into the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act new conservation initiatives and a nearly 80% conservation funding increase. "The most important of these conservation initiatives is the Conservation Security Program," he says.
A list of the eligible watersheds is at www.nrcs.usda.gov/. USDA offers CSP in new watersheds annually on a rotational basis in as many watersheds as funding allows. For more information about CSP, including a map of targeted watersheds and eligibility requirements, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp.