Vermillion watershed included in expansion

Vermillion watershed included in expansion Two South Dakota watersheds were among 202 across the nation invited to participate in a historic new program designed to reward farmers for long-term stewardship.

U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman announced the selected watersheds and said that sign-ups for the 2005 Conservation Security Program (CSP) would begin this winter.

CSP, part of the 2002 Farm Bill, was introduced last summer in 18 watersheds nationwide. In this first opportunity for farmers from each state to participate, about one-eighth of the nation's eligible farmers will be given the chance to apply each year over an eight-year period.

"As an agency and as a nation we have helped farmers and ranchers fix conservation problems such as soil erosion or water conservation since the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s," said Janet Oertly South Dakota State Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) overseeing CSP. "This, however, represents a whole new direction in conservation and agricultural policy and programs. These payments for long-term stewardship will reward many of those who undertook conservation on their own initiative and who care for the resources we all share."

The program is available on pastureland, rangeland and all types of cropland. Participants will be enrolled in one of three tiers in the program, depending on the extent of the conservation treatment in place on their farm or ranch. Payments will be based in part on this existing conservation treatment as well as their willingness to undertake additional environmental enhancements.

In South Dakota, about 3,200 farms and almost two million acres are located within the two watersheds selected for funding during Fiscal Year 2005. Producers in the North Big Sioux Coteau Hydrologic Unit #10160010 and the Vermillion Hydrologic Unit #10170102 can use a self-assessment to determine the tier for which they qualify. The selected watersheds cover portions of 17 South Dakota counties. Producers can check the national NRCS Web site (http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/pro

grams/csp) or contact their local service center to determine if their land falls within the watershed boundaries.

Oertly said that while protecting soil and water quality are minimum required levels of treatment, farmers will also have options to improve wildlife habitat, undertake on-farm energy conservation, improve air quality, participate in environmental monitoring, participate in watershed-wide stewardship programs, improve nutrient and many other conservation practices.

NRCS will be offering local workshops in the selected watersheds to more fully explain the program to interested potential participants. In future years CSP will continue to be offered nationally, on a rotational basis, in as many watersheds as funding allows.

For more information about technical assistance and conservation programs, contact the local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office listed in the phone book under U.S. Department of Agriculture or go to http://www.sd.nrcs.usda.gov.

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