Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced that the 2006 Conservation Security Program sign-up will be available from Feb.13 thru March 31.

USDA announced preliminary selection of 110 watersheds for fiscal year 2006 based on the president's budget request. The preliminary selection included 12 watersheds in Texas. Based on available funding, CSP will be offered in 60 watersheds across all 50 states, the Caribbean and Guam.

In Texas, CSP will be offered in five watersheds: the East Fork Trinity, the Wichita, the South Wichita, the Upper Prairie Dog Town Fork Red and the Upper Beaver, which will be shared with Oklahoma. The sign-up will only include those producers who do not have an existing CSP contract.

“The selection of these watersheds encompasses over 5 million acres and represents a balance of resource needs, historic stewardship, potential producer eligibility, and the technology and adequate staff needed to successfully implement the program,” said NRCS State Conservationist Larry D. Butler in Temple.

“Nationally, the selected watersheds reflect a cross-section of land uses, crop regions and landscapes. “A sign-up announcement will be published that will detail the specific program requirements within the watersheds,” Butler said.

The contracts will be determined in a national selection process that will be described in the sign-up notice. Producers begin the application process by filling out a self-assessment to determine if they meet the basic qualifications for CSP. Self-assessment workbooks are available in hard copy at USDA Service Centers within the watersheds, and electronically at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp/

After completing the self-assessment producers should schedule an appointment to discuss their application with the NRCS local staff to determine if they meet specific CSP eligibility requirements.

According to Butler, all CSP applications that meet the sign-up criteria will be placed in an enrollment category and considered regardless of available funding. “Agricultural producers in these watersheds have been protecting our soil and water resources for years,” he said. “Now they can be rewarded for that stewardship,” Butler said.

CSP is a voluntary program that supports ongoing conservation stewardship of agricultural working lands and enhances the condition of America's natural resources. Additional information on CSP and a map showing the location of the selected watersheds is on the NRCS Texas Web site at http://www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp