“USDA is holding the listening sessions to give the public ample opportunity to voice their opinions about the new program,” Veneman said. “The public input will be very important as we develop the final regulations for program implementation.”

The dates and locations for the Sun Belt sessions include Jan. 13 in Tempe, Ariz.; Jan. 13 in Roanoke, Va.; Jan. 21 in Kerrville, Texas; Feb. 11 in Ft. Pierce, Fla.; and Feb. 11 in Greenwood, Miss.

The CSP proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 2. Comments are due by March 2, 2004.

Authorized by the 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, CSP is a new voluntary conservation program that supports ongoing conservation stewardship of agricultural working lands and enhances the condition of America’s natural resources.

The proposed rule and detailed information on the national listening sessions are on the NRCS Web site at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov

The complete schedule for the sessions:

Tempe, Ariz., Jan. 13

Roanoke, Va., Jan. 13

Kerrville, Texas, Jan. 21

Spokane, Wash., Jan. 27

Lansing, Mich., Feb. 10

Ft. Pierce, Fla., Feb. 11

Des Moines, Iowa, Feb. 11

Augusta, Maine, Feb. 11

Greenwood, Miss., Feb. 11

Madison, Wis., Feb. 26

Written comments will also be accepted at the forums, by mail, or by e-mail. Comments must be received by March 2, 2004. Send comments by mail to Conservation Operations Division, Natural Resources Conservation Service, P.O. Box 2890, Washington, DC 20013-2890, or by e-mail to david.mckay@usda.gov; Attn: Conservation Security Program.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com