Agriculture Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner has announced that USDA will offer 12,700 Conservation Security Program (CSP) contracts across the nation. These 2005 contracts being offered translate into more than a $1 billion long-term commitment to conservation over the next 10 years, he said.

“CSP participants are conservation innovators. What they do today will lead to additional environmental benefits for the nation as they share their knowledge of conservation with others,” said Conner at a CSP event in Carroll County, Md. “The program is offered nationally on working lands, rewarding the nation’s leading conservationists and providing incentives for them and others to do more.”

The CSP contracts offered cover about 9 million acres of private land in the 220 watersheds nationwide. USDA expects to fully invest the $202 million provided by Congress for this fiscal year. Environmental enhancement activities offered by applicants include improving soil quality, water quality, wildlife habitat management, nutrient and pest management, air quality management and on-farm energy management.

Following the process outlined in the CSP sign-up notice published in the Federal Register on March 25, 2005, applications will be offered according to the published enrollment categories, in order, until the funding is exhausted. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer contracts to applications in enrollment categories A and B and subcategory C-1.

The number of applications accepted and total projected contract cost for Mid-South and neighboring states for each tier of conservation accomplishments are:

Alabama/64/$956,481; Arkansas/589/$10,563,637; Kentucky/47/$461,841; Louisiana/24/$191,224; Mississippi/34/$526,173; Missouri/1,204/$13,574,659; Oklahoma/136/$659,228; Tennessee/16/$49,846; and Texas/84/$6,476,076.

NRCS also extended the comment period on the interim final rule for CSP to Sept. 9. This extension will give the public additional time to comment on key issues regarding implementation of the program. The extension notice was published in the Federal Register on July 20, 2005. Comments can be made via the Federal Register at the Web site farmbillrules@wdc.usda.gov.

CSP is a voluntary conservation program that supports ongoing stewardship of private agriculture lands by providing payments for maintaining and enhancing natural resources. NRCS financial and technical assistance promotes the conservation and improvement of soil, water, air, energy, plant and animal life, and other conservation purposes. CSP is available each year on a rotational basis in as many watersheds as funding allows. Additional information on CSP, including the self-assessment workbook and Federal Register notice, is at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp.