Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin says Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns confirmed that funding in a supplemental appropriations bill passed by Congress will be used for enrolling more farmers in the Conservation Security Program and increasing payments under certain existing CSP contracts.

The fact that Harkin, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, felt he needed to announce Johanns' pledge speaks volumes about the problems the program Harkin included in the 2002 farm bill has encountered in recent years.

Although Harkin envisioned a national program when he devised the CSP, USDA decided to launch it as a pilot program confined to selected watersheds. Since then, the House Republican leadership transferred some CSP funding to other agricultural programs.

“The Conservation Security Program pays proactive farmers and ranchers for good conservation, and it is important that the USDA continues to enroll new producers and fully honors its commitments to those who are already enrolled in CSP,” said Harkin.

“Farmers like CSP, they grasp it and they see the vision of it. Yet previous spending bills shortchanged the program and prevented it from reaching its full potential,” he said. “This new funding helps restore confidence in CSP by continuing to enroll new producers and fulfilling all existing obligations under these contracts.

“I thank Secretary Johanns for his willingness to increase investments in conservation and work to get this enrollment accomplished.”

Harkin led efforts to include funding in the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act to pay for all existing CSP contracts.