Agriculture Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner announced that 110 watersheds, with at least one in all 50 states, Guam and Puerto Rico, will be eligible for the 2006 Conservation Security Program.

"This voluntary program recognizes farmers and ranchers for their ongoing stewardship activities on working agricultural lands," said Conner. "Natural resource conservation efforts by America's producers benefit everyone through healthier soil, cleaner air and water and improved fish and wildlife habitat.

“CSP successfully demonstrates a cooperative public-private conservation partnership."

Conner made the announcement in Alaska prior to holding the tenth in a series of USDA Farm Bill Forums that are currently being held across the country by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, Conner and other USDA officials.

The sign-up period will take place early in fiscal year 2006. These watersheds represent more than 120,000 of the nation's potentially eligible farms and ranches, covering more than 46 million acres that are evenly split between cropland and grazing land.

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service held the first CSP sign-up in 2004. Today's announcement brings the number of watersheds enrolled to 330 across the nation, covering 250 million acres that have been eligible for the program.

The 2006 CSP will include a renewable energy component. Eligible producers will receive compensation for converting to renewable energy fuels such as bio-diesel and ethanol, for recycling 100 percent of on-farm lubricants, and for implementing energy production, including wind, solar, geothermal and methane production.

A sign-up announcement will be published that will detail specific program requirements in the watersheds. The program will be offered each year on a rotational basis in as many watersheds as funding allows.

Additional information on CSP, including a map of the fiscal year 2006 watersheds and eligibility requirements, is on the Web at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp.

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