Arizona farmers and ranchers in the Agua Fria Watershed can apply for assistance through the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service’s conservation security program from April 18 - May 16, 2008.

The Agua Fria River Watershed, located along the Agua Fria-New River in Maricopa and Yavapai Counties, Ariz., includes 1,556,731 acres – about 449,111 acres are privately owned, and about 326,855 acres are on state land.

This will be the third CSP sign-up in Arizona. More than $1.1 million has been awarded to Arizona farmers and ranchers through CSP covering 314,000 acres.

Two public workshops are scheduled to provide more information. The workshops are at the City of Avondale City Hall, 11465 West Civic Center Drive, Avondale, in the Mojave Room. The dates are April 14 at 10 a.m. and April 17 at 1 p.m.

Administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, CSP is a voluntary conservation program that supports ongoing stewardship of private and Tribal 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.

Payments can include three components:

1- Annual stewardship component for the base level of conservation treatment;

2- Annual component for maintenance of existing conservation practices; and

3 - An enhancement component for exceptional conservation efforts. Enhancement activities could include limited pesticide applications, renewable energy generation, and widening existing riparian forest buffers for restoring critical stream habitat.

To apply for CSP, NRCS asks potential participants to complete a CSP self-assessment workbook - available on the Web or from local NRCS offices - to find out if their operation meets the requirements of the program and qualifies for program participation.

The self-assessment process is completed using a self-screening questionnaire for each land use to be enrolled. When this process is completed, the producer submits the CSP workbook to the local NRCS office during the sign-up period and meets with NRCS personnel to go over any additional needed documentation. NRCS will then determine if eligibility requirements are met and provide options for the producer's decision on enrollment category placement.

Additional information on CSP in Arizona is available at www.az.nrcs.usda.gov.