New CSP program will reward conservation efforts

The first Conservation Security Program funding under the 2002 federal farm bill becomes available this spring to farmers and ranchers in more than 35 sections of Marion County land near Burns in the Upper Walnut Watershed.

Payments to producers can range from less than $20,000 up to $45,000 depending on conservation practices “tier” level practiced.

Marion County District Conservationist Gary Schuler said CSP takes a new approach in rewarding agricultural producers more fully who already have done soil and water conservation measures.

Persons who watch international marketing of farm products say voluntary CSP could represent part of the new way in which the United States supports its farmers because of direct subsidy limitations agreed to between nations. They say support of good stewardship practices that keep the environment clean should stay popular.

Jim and Lisa French, of the Kansas Rural Center at Whiting, said farmers on land outside the limited number of watersheds across the United States where CSP is being implemented should stay ready to sign up when they are included.

They said all farmers should watch for articles in magazines and newspapers about CSP, and contact the local Natural Resources Conservation Service office for information. On the internet, information can be found at csp/.

The Frenches said that a self-assessment workbook can be obtained from the NRCS office or online to determine eligibility.

CSP only has been implemented in a limited number of watersheds across the United States although all U.S. farmers are expected to have the opportunity to enter the program over the next few years.

Schuler said seven watersheds that have acreages in Kansas were chosen for CSP implementation this year. Besides the Upper Walnut, they include the Middle Arkansas-Lake McKinney, the Upper South Fork of the Solomon River, the North Fork of the Ninnescah River, the Lower Big Blue River, the Delaware and the Arikaree.

Most of the Upper Walnut watershed in CSP is located in Butler County including nearly 700 square miles, in Harvey County with about 90 square miles, and in Sedgwick County including nearly 60 square miles.

The remaining portion in Chase County is little more than one section.

Schuler said NRCS will determine which program teir and enrollment category are available for an applicant based on the producer’s own self-assessment and application.

The applicant must be in compliance with highly erodible land and wetland provisions of the Food Security Act of 1985, have an active interest in the agricultural operation, and show control of the land for the life of the contract.

The applicant must share in the risk of producing any crop orf livestock, and be entitled to a share in product marketed from the operation.

For five-year tier one contracts with a maximum annual payment of $20,000, NRCS criteria say the producer must meet minimum water quality and soil quality treatment requirements on part of the entire farm prior to CSP acceptance.

For five to 10-year tier contracts with a maximum annual payment of $35,000, the producer must meet minimum treatment requirements on the entire farm prior to acceptance, and agree to address one additional resource by the end of the contract period.

For tier three five to 10-year contracts with a maximum annual payment of $45,000, the producer must have addressed all resource concerns to a resource management system level that meets the Field Office Technical Guide standards on the entire farm before acceptance, and agree to additional enhancement activities outlined in the sign-up agreement.

Schuler said soil quality practices might include crop rotation, cover crops, conservation tillage, prescribed grazing and adequate wind barriers.

Water quality practices might include filter strips, grassed waterways, managed access to streams, nutrient and pest management, prescribed grazing and irrigation water management.

Schuler said if you missed informational meetings on CSP that were held Monday, you have the opportunity for one more this week, at 1 p.m. Friday in the Whitewater American Legion Building in Whitewater.

French said all farmers can increase CSP payments by being willing and able to undertake new enhancements in the next few years.

“While CSP recognizes and rewards what you have already done on your land, it still encourages ongoing and new conservation activity,” he said.

“Find your records and written documentation for soil tests, fertilizer application, pest control, livestock waste use practices, and pasture and rangeland management activities. If you don’t have these types of records, start keeping them now.

“You will need to be able to document your actions and management decisions for five years on some conservation practices and two years on others.”

Schuler said farm and ranch producers would do well to remember the official NRCS descriptions for CSP:

“CSP is a voluntary conservation program that supports ongoing stewardship of private agricultural lands by providing payments for maintaining and enhancing natural resources.

“CSP identifies and rewards those farmers and ranchers who are meeting the highest standards of conservation and environmental management on their operations.

“…CSP creates powerful incentives for other producers to meet those same standards of conservation performance.

“In short, CSP rewards the best, and motivates the rest.”

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