WASHINGTON – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is trying to make sure eligible farmers literally get more bang for their buck in the new Conservation Security Program.

With the release of the interim final rule for the CSP in mid June, NRCS – the agency responsible for administering the program – announced that CSP would provide both cost-share and payment incentives designed to help farmers with energy management.

The sign-up deadline for the first phase of the CSP is July 31.

NRCS Chief Bruce I. Knight said his agency will be offering a limited number of enhancements and new activity payments in this first sign-up as a "test drive."

"That's good news to agriculture and the environment in general," Knight said. "And it could be even better news for agricultural sectors involved in producing bio-based, renewable energy like corn, soybean and grain sorghum growers."

Although the 2002 farm bill called for nationwide implementation of the Conservation Security Program to promote more environmental enhancements on the farm, USDA elected to begin the CSP in a limited number of watersheds.

Knight said producers in the first 18 watersheds eligible for the program this year could receive incentive payments for a number of on-farm energy conservation activities. Those include using renewable fuels, such as soy diesel and ethanol; reducing energy use based on an audit; renewable energy generation; and saving energy through a reduction in soil tillage operations.

NRCS will also offer cost-share payments for producers who conduct an operations energy audit. "This audit," Knight said, "will involve the use of industry and utilities professionals to help producers assess opportunities to reduce overall energy consumption on their entire operation."

In addition, CSP can provide cost-share payments to producer for the recycling of on-farm lubricants. "This feature not only allows the lubricants to be processed and reused," Knight said, "but it will reduce the likelihood of oil spills on the farm."

CSP qualifying producers using bio-based fuels will receive payment per 500 gallons, based on the percentage of bio-based fuel in the mixture.

"Rates will be determined at the national level for the first year," Knight said, "but our agency will listen carefully to comments during the interim final rule comment period to determine how local factors should be considered in subsequent years."

Through cost-share and incentive payments, Knight said, CSP will "help producers help the country reduce its dependence on foreign oil through increased on-farm efficiencies," and will "help generate additional demand for bio-based energy fuel sources."

Additional information on CSP including the interim final rule is available at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp.

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