Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has reminded producers that the sign-up period for the 2005 Conservation Security Program (CSP) ends on Friday, May 27, 2005.

This nationwide sign-up that began March 28 is available to approximately 235,000 farmers and ranchers in 220 selected watershed locations.

"CSP is a unique program that offers payments for enhancing natural resources, rewards those farmers and ranchers who are model conservationists and provides incentives for other producers to meet those same high standards of environmental performance," said Johanns. “I encourage all interested producers in these watersheds to register by the sign-up deadline.”

The 220 watersheds represent more than 185 million acres in every state and the Caribbean Area. Congress funded the fiscal year 2005 CSP budget at $202 million. This allows the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to write an estimated 12,000 to 14,000 contracts in the selected watersheds. Most working agricultural lands will be eligible, including cropland, orchards, vineyards, pasture and range.

In order to apply to this program, producers should contact the local NRCS office to actually sign-up for the program. NRCS is prepared for a last minute rush of interested farmers and ranchers. Interested producers can sign onto a 2005 CSP Sign-up Register in situations where NRCS is unable to complete the one-on-one sign-up interview by May 27. Producers will be scheduled for interviews beginning the following week, as identified on the official CSP 2005 Sign-up Register, until all producer interviews are completed.

Local NRCS offices will remain open until the end of the regular business day to receive CSP applications. Producers are urged to contact their local NRCS offices to receive information about the CSP sign-up procedures.

CSP is a voluntary conservation program that supports ongoing stewardship of private, agricultural working lands and rewards those producers who are meeting the highest standards of conservation and environmental management on their operations.

Additional information on CSP, including eligible watersheds, self-assessment workbook and other information is available at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp .