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Farmers Taking Advantage of CSP

A new study shows that despite funding cuts, USDA's Conservation Security Program is fueling Midwest farm conservation.

A report released April 18 by a coalition of Midwest farm organizations finds that the federal Conservation Security Program is spurring new agricultural conservation in the Midwest. Farmers enrolled in the CSP are taking advantage of the program's incentives by adding new practices to their farms that protect natural resources.

The CSP was among the issues addressed April 18 by the House Agriculture Committee in their farm bill hearing. "The Conservation Security Program is bringing positive changes to our farms and our environment," said Teresa Opheim, executive director of Practical Farmers of Iowa. "Midwest farmers enrolled in the Conservation Security Program are taking action to help protect our water, soil, air and wildlife."

Program popular among farmers

The report finds that, once enrolled in the working lands program, the majority of farmers are adding new conservation practices to their operations. Farmers can add new practices as part of their initial CSP contract. They can also modify their contracts annually and receive higher payments by adding new conservation practices, following their first year of enrollment in the program.

Most commonly, farmers enrolled in the program are adding new wildlife habitat to their farms. Those practices can include planting native grasses, fencing off wetlands and wooded areas, adding winter cover to cropland or adding grassed field borders. Farmers are also adding conservation practices that address nutrient management, reduced pesticide use, farmstead issues, and more.

Report reviews CSP in Midwest states

Since taking over the family farm nearly 35 years ago, Steve Reinart, a member of Practical Farmers of Iowa, has steadily converted his worn-out cropland on the Raccoon River near Glidden into grass. "Every year I have tried to install a new conservation practice—native grasses, a shelterbelt, and a pond," he says. Reinart was rewarded well for his efforts when he snagged a Tier III CSP contract in 2005, and continues to enhance his farm with a diversity of conservation practices.

The report reviews the Conservation Security Program in five Midwest states, including Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.

CSP was created in the 2002 Farm Bill and will be up for re-authorization by Congress in the 2007 Farm Bill. Nationwide, nearly 20,000 farms are enrolled in CSP, totaling 16 million acres. In Iowa, 2,270 farmers have CSP contracts covering over 780 thousand acres. However, because of funding cuts, only a third of the farmers who qualified for CSP in 2006 were enrolled in the program.

Farmers want CSP in next farm bill

"Overwhelmingly, farmers want the Conservation Security Program to be a part of the next farm bill, but they want secure funding for the program," said Tim Gieseke with the Minnesota Project and author of the report.

Funding limitations have driven USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service to restrict access to CSP by limiting the program to only select watersheds around the country. Congress has cut $4.3 billion from the CSP funding since the program was created in the 2002 Farm Bill.

The report, entitled, The Conservation Security Program Drives Resource Management: An Assessment of CSP Implementation in 5 Midwestern States, is a project of Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, along with the Land Stewardship Project, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, the Minnesota Project and Missouri Rural Crisis Center. For a copy of the full report, go to or contact Emily Clark at 515-232-5661 ext. 104 or by email at

TAGS: Farm Policy
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