WASHINGTON – Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Bruce Knight has released a self-assessment workbook for potential participants in the new Conservation Security Program.

The CSP, a voluntary program that supports ongoing conservation and stewardship of agricultural working lands, was authorized by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. USDA has announced growers in selected watersheds can begin signup for the CSP program July 6.

“The workbook is significant because "self-assessment" is a new way of doing business,” said Knight, USDA’s top conservation officer. “Farmers and ranchers can assess their potential eligibility by themselves on their own time at their convenience.”

The initial self-assessment will help producers identify whether their individual agricultural operation meets sign-up criteria and answer the question, "Do I address minimum soil and water quality criteria on the land I manage?” By going through the workbook, producers will get a good idea about whether they are eligible for CSP at this time.

Producers who may not be eligible can find out about programs that can help them achieve a higher level of conservation so that they may apply for CSP in the future.

To apply for the program, the Natural Resources Conservation Service will ask potential participants to complete the self-assessment to determine if their operations meet the standards of the program and qualify for program participation. The self-assessment process is completed using a self-screening questionnaire for each land use to be enrolled.

NRCS provides up-to-date technology, tools and resource information to meet the conservation needs of the nation’s producers. Soil quality assessment information at http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/soil_quality/assessment/index.html includes the Soil Conditioning Index, a tool used to predict the consequences of cropping systems and tillage practices on the status of soil organic matter. Water quality resources including a Manure Management Planner are at http://wmc.ar.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/wq.html.

On June 9, USDA announced that sign-up for the CSP will be available to eligible farmers and ranchers in 18 watersheds across the nation July 6 to July 30. A sign-up notice detailing specific program requirements in the selected watersheds will be published in the Federal Register soon.

The CSP self-assessment workbook is available in hardcopy or compact disk (CD) from local NRCS offices within the 18 selected watersheds. It also is available online at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp at an interactive site that allows producers to log on and off at their convenience to complete the workbook at their own pace.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com