The on-again, off-again Conservation Security Program has received a fresh, infusion of funds that USDA officials say will allow them to complete payments on fiscal year 2007 CSP contracts and prepare for a future program sign-up.

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Conservation Security Program's principal author, said the new funding will also allow USDA to sign up more producers for the CSP in eligible watersheds.

“The Conservation Security Program pays proactive farmers and ranchers for good conservation, and it is important that the USDA continues to enroll new producers and fully honors its commitments to those who are already enrolled in CSP,” Harkin said in a statement.

“Farmers like CSP, they grasp it and they see the vision of it,” added Harkin. “Yet previous spending bills shortchanged the program and prevented it from reaching its full potential.”

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced the availability of the new CSP funding during an appearance at Farm Fest in Redwood County, Minn. The county is located in House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson's district.

“Through our actions today, the Conservation Security Program will fully realize the promise to recognize and award those producers that demonstrate conservation excellence,” said Johanns “These steps represent a way to bring the past program to completion, and set the stage for the future of CSP, beyond passage of the farm bill.”

Johanns said $35 million is being made available for the completion of payments on fiscal year 2007 CSP contracts. In addition, he said, $2.93 million will be used to help producers and Natural Resources Conservation Service field staff prepare for a future program signup in the 51 watersheds previously identified for fiscal 2007.

Harkin encouraged producers to take advantage of the “open enrollment” in the Conservation Security Program announced by USDA. The senator has been working with USDA since that time to release the funding and commended Johanns' action.

A list of the eligible watersheds can be viewed at http://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 http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp.