County farmers benefit from CSP
As many as 337 Idaho farmers and ranchers in 15 watersheds across the state are approved for the new Conservation Security Program (CSP) this year.
In total, these producers—considered some of the best land stewards in the state—could receive $4.2 million in 2005 alone.
“This is a testament to the quality of producers here in Idaho,” says Adolfo Perez, acting state conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the agency administering CSP. “We hope this will provide a boost to the state’s rural economies and inspire other farmers and ranchers to practice good stewardship.”
CSP differs from traditional programs offered by the NRCS because it rewards existing conservation practices. The criteria for acceptance into the program are strict.
“This is not a fix-it program,” says Richard Spencer, NRCS district conservationist in Grangeville. “This is a program which offers rewards and incentives for people who are already doing a good job conserving their soil and water.”
Producers in Idaho County, administered out of Grangeville, received the most CSP applications in the state. NRCS approved 153 producers for contracts with a 2005 pay-out of $1.64 million.
This year, CSP was offered in watersheds near Arco, Bonners Ferry, Cascade, Grangeville and Mountain Home. CSP will be rotated through all of the state’s watersheds over the next eight years. The 2006 watersheds are expected to be announced soon.
Applicants can apply for three tiers of participation. Tier 3 is the highest tier with the greatest payout and the largest amount of conservation stewardship.
Many of this year’s producers are finding the reward program a blessing.
“It is a godsend, really,” says Marge Wright, a rancher in the Salmon River country.
She says the extra income will allow her to fix up some things around her ranch that haven’t gotten much attention in recent years. First she is going to buy some lumber and improve some cattle feeders.
“I have too long of a list,” Wright says.
For Doug and Karen Lustig of Cottonwood, a contract to put most of their acreage into CSP is their latest conservation success story. They have been involved in conservation programs for years, utilizing other programs to incorporate direct seeding into the operation. Now the entire farm is direct seeded.
While the Lustig farm finished high in the pack, they still plan to further improve their land by signing up for future enhancements including using friendlier chemicals and providing grass strips for wildlife. The enhancements, when completed, will improve the Lustigs’ position in CSP and lead to future payments.
The money is always helpful, Karen Lustig says. “This year things are looking good so it might help us make some further payments on the land.”
Spencer says the program requires producers to take a look at and evaluate their operations. Producers are responsible for providing the records, such as pesticide records, soil samples and grazing plans, to accompany the application.
“You learn things you don’t even think about,” Wright says.
Wright has been actively involved in conservation practices through NRCS for years but prior programs have been fix-it programs with a cost-share element. She is still involved in a noxious weed spraying project.
Spencer says even with the producers taking the lead in providing records, it is still a big task to apply for CSP. The average application takes eight to 10 hours, he says.
However, the high success rate made it worth it. Spencer says the money is being paid out as quickly as the producers sign the paperwork.
For more information on CSP, visit www.id.usda.gov .