Farmers participating in the Conservation Security Program are being asked to notify their local Natural Resources Conservation Service offices if they wish to receive CSP payments in 2007 or 2008.

The request comes as USDA officials announced they are preparing to pay out $257 million for all 19,393 Conservation Security Program contracts with eligible landowners and producers.

“USDA is pleased to recognize good stewardship practices and offer incentives to increase conserving uses through the Conservation Security Program, and we have proposed to do more, if Congress agrees,” said acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner.

The payments Conner announced are for current contracts in all 280 CSP watersheds. CSP contract holders will receive payment in full for the current fiscal year 2008 contract obligations and will be given the option of receiving their payment in calendar year 2007 or 2008.

That's why CSP program participants are being asked to contact their local NRCS office.

Currently, the Conservation Security Program is offered on a rotating watershed basis, as funds are available. Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, the program's author, had intended it to be a national program available to all farmers who perform conservation practices on their land.

Harkin, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, included funding in the farm bill just passed by the committee that would bring the total enrollment in the Conservation Stewardship Program, as it would be renamed, to 80 million acres over the next five years.

USDA submitted a proposal that calls for substantial reform and improvement of the Conservation Security Program with a goal of conducting nationwide signups.

“Our farm bill proposal has offered Congress a means to expand CSP enrollment to more than 96 million acres over the next 10 years, rather than its current limit to selected watersheds.”

“This announcement shows that little by little we are breathing new life into the CSP,” said Harkin. “I applaud acting Secretary Conner's announcement, and I look forward to his support of the farm bill that passed the Senate Agriculture Committee last week, which includes significant new funding for CSP.”

The Natural Resources Conservation Service anticipates the next CSP signup to take place in early 2008 in the 51 eligible watersheds announced in September 2006.