WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman today announced priority watersheds in 21 states that will be used in the initial sign-up for the Conservation Security Program this summer.

The listing of states and watersheds is a follow-up to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s May 4 announcement of the process that would be used to select the first watersheds to be eligible for participation in the CSP.

"This voluntary program supports ongoing conservation stewardship of agricultural working lands and enhances the condition of America's natural resources," Veneman said in the announcement. "USDA intends to offer a signup for this program this summer."

The only watershed selected in the Mid-South is the Little River Ditches area that lies along the boundary between Missouri and Arkansas. Two other sites were selected in Georgia and South Carolina and three in New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

Selected watersheds for the fiscal year 2004 CSP sign-up are:

Nebraska/KansasLower Little BlueUmatilla
states(s watershed
Pennsylvania Raystown
South Carolinas Saluda
Georgia(s Little
Michigan/Indiana/Ohios St. Joseph
Indiana/Ohios Auglaize
Minnesota/Iowas Blue Earth
Wisconsin(s Lower Chippeaw
Illinois/Wisconsin Kishwaukee
Missouri/Arkansas Little River Ditches
Montana/North Dakota Lower Yellowstone
Iowa East Nishnabotna
Oklahoma/Kansas Lower Salt Fork Arkansas
New Mexico/Texas Punta De Agua
Texas Hondo
Washington Moses Coulee
Idaho Lemhi
Oregon

To implement CSP this fiscal year, Veneman said USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service will begin to train employees within the priority watersheds immediately on the basics of the program; detailed training will occur once the interim final rule is published in early summer. A sign-up announcement will be published along with the interim final rule that will detail the specific program requirements within the priority watersheds. Congress capped the fiscal year 2004 CSP budget at $41.4 million. This funding allows NRCS to write 3,000 to 5,000 contracts. Due to that limit on funding, USDA chose to offer the program in selected, priority watersheds. All CSP applications that meet the sign-up criteria will be placed in an enrollment category regardless of available funding. In addition to legal contract requirements, the categories will consider the applicants' current stewardship (soil condition, tillage intensity, existing practices and activities) and will sort producers based on these factors. Categories also will examine producers' willingness to perform additional conservation activities during their CSP contract. The program will be offered each year, on a rotational basis, in as many watersheds as can be funded. Additional information on CSP, including the Federal Register notices, public comments and frequently asked questions, is at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp.

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