The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service announced that the Milwaukee River Watershed will be eligible for the Conservation Security Program in 2008. CSP is a voluntary program that supports stewardship and conservation on working farmland. During this 2008 signup, the Milwaukee River Watershed is the only watershed open for the program in Wisconsin.
"Those who depend on the land to make a living are the best stewards of the land," says Pat Leavenworth, NRCS State Conservationist for Wisconsin. "Since the first sign-up in 2004, CSP has offered payments for enhancing natural resources, rewarding those farmers who are good conservationists, and providing incentives for other producers to achieve those same high standards of conservation in agriculture."
Nationally, the CSP sign-up is open in 51 watersheds from April 18 to May 16. The sign-up announcement and specific program requirements are being published in the Federal Register. USDA announced preliminary selection of 51 watersheds in 2007. However, signups were postponed pending Congressional action on a new Farm Bill and on agricultural appropriations.
According to Leavenworth, the CSP sign up in Wisconsin will be open in the Milwaukee River watershed, which includes portions of Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Dodge, Washington, Ozaukee, Waukesha and Milwaukee counties. The entire watershed covers over 550,000 acres and will be available to an estimated 1,500 farmers and landowners in Wisconsin. More details about the sign up area are available on the Wisconsin NRCS web site at www.wi.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp07.html.
"NRCS will be hosting CSP workshops on April 7 to help landowners and farmers become familiar with the program and learn how they may take advantage of the opportunities CSP provides," Leavenworth says. The workshops will be at the Auburn Town Hall, two miles east of Campbellsport, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., on Monday, April 7. Interested landowners should register by calling their local NRCS office.
This signup marks the fourth year Wisconsin has had eligible watersheds. CSP was first offered in 2004. In the first three signups, Wisconsin enrolled 195,000 acres and 650 farmers from the six watersheds that were eligible in the past. The average first year payment was $6,500 for CSP farmers in Wisconsin, with total CSP payments of $5.49 million for 2007.
"We urge every good conservation farmer in the Milwaukee River watershed to check into this great opportunity," said Leavenworth. "Farmers need to know that this is their chance to reap the rewards for years of good conservation," she says. The continuation of this program is currently being considered by Congress as part of the next Farm Bill.
CSP pays farmers based on Tiers, ranging from Tier 1 where soil and water resources are protected on part of the farm, to Tier 3, where all resources are protected on the whole operation. In addition, farmers may increase payments through enhancements, such as energy conservation measures, wildlife habitat, or extra nutrient and pest management practices. Payments are made annually, for five to 10 years, depending on tier level of conservation.
"CSP provides a great opportunity to reward good conservation farmers and to encourage others to protect land and water quality in their farm operations," says Leavenworth. "It represents a whole new direction in conservation and agricultural policy and programs."
For more information on CSP, contact the NRCS Office in your local USDA Service Center. Additional information on CSP, including a detailed maps of the land in the watersheds, is at www.wi.nrcs.usda.gov under Conservation Security Program.