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USDA Announces CSP Guidelines

posted on May 7, 2004

The government will stage a conference on the future of the Conservation Reserve Program during the first week in June. CRP is the nation's largest environmental program. It pays landholders, primarily farmers, to take their most environmentally sensitive land out of production.

The timing of the conference is seen as critical, since CRP contracts on some 22 million acres of land are set to expire by 2008.

CRP is not the only land-based government program that impacts U.S. agriculture. Indeed, the USDA this week announced details of the Conservation Security Program, or CSP, for which farmers can enroll this summer.

USDA Announces CSP Guidelines CSP is the first federal agricultural conservation program that provides economic incentives for conservation efforts on working farmland. Nearly 2 million producers are potentially eligible for the 41 million dollars available in fiscal year 2004, but the Agriculture Department estimates this year's enrollment to be between 3,000 and 5,000. USDA will use watersheds as the basis to determine CSP participation.

USDA, claims a rotation of America's watersheds will enable all of the nation's farmers and ranchers to participate in the voluntary program.

Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, and the author of CSP, has sharply criticized the Bush administration's implementation of the program.

Sen. Tom Harkin, (D) Iowa: "This idea of conservation and environmental benefits as commodities or products was part of our thinking in the Farm Bill."

Harkin authored CSP during his tenure as chair of the Senate Ag Committee in 2002. Initially, conservation programs formed the cornerstone of his version of the 2002 Farm Bill, but many of the provisions were compromised as the bill made its way through Congress.

According to Harkin, USDA is too narrowly focused on watersheds, has established rules that favor farmers in some regions over others and has drastically curtailed financial incentives.

Farm leaders also are critical of the watershed approach, because they believe CSP could become the standard of the next farm bill if world trade deals mandate cuts to current farm support programs.

USDA received more than 16,000 comments on the proposed rules and Harkin claims the vast majority of them were negative

Tags: agriculture conservation news security USDA