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Signup time is running out, CSP program application period ends May 16

Ag producers in southwestern North Dakota have two weeks left to signup for the Natural Resource Conservation Service's Conservation Security Program.

The initial signup began on April 16 and has been slow. But because of recent rainfall in the region, producers had a little time apply for the program late this week.

"It's been nuts here today," said Wendy Bartholomay, district conservationist for the Carson and Bowman NRCS offices, on Friday. "It really has been, with walk-ins and call-ins. It's wet enough so they can't be seeding so they're inside thinking about their paperwork."

Bartholomay said it doesn't matter how many applicants the CSP program gets because the limit is not in acreage, but in money available for payments.

The Upper Cannonball Watershed, which is eligible for signup this year, encompasses nearly 900,000 acres in Bowman, Grant, Hettinger, Slope and Stark counties. Applying doesn't guarantee a producer will be enrolled in the program, but with a maximum payment of $45,000 a year, Bartholomay said there isn't a good reason not to.

"For the most part, people are excited about it because it offers anywhere up to $45,000 annually as a payment," Bartholomay said. "That depends on the number of acres and the extent of their conservation practices."

Those ranking the highest in terms of conservation activities at the end of the signup period are notified in late June and are offered five- or 10-year contracts to participate in the program.

If they accept, their first payment comes in late August or early September.

Unlike the federal Conservation Reserve Program that pays producers to take land out of production, the CSP program rewards them for land that remains in production during the signup process.

"Most of our producers in the Cannonball Watershed are good stewards of the land and they're pretty excited to see some financial incentives for the work that they've been doing," said Darren Olin, district conservationist at the Mott NRCS office.

One thing the NRCS had to work against during this year's signup is the fact it runs from April 16 to May 16, in the middle of planting season.

"One of the negative things is they're out in the fields so they're busy right now," said Jenny Heglund, assistant state conservationist for programs. "They do have some homework to do by putting together the workbook and the information that we request in there, but these are five- to 10-year contracts so there will be rewards each year."

Heglund said the average payment for those who are approved for the program in North Dakota has been $17,000 a year.

Producers have until 4:30 p.m. on May 16 to apply for the program. Booklets are available at local NRCS offices and online at

Olin said producers with questions should contact their local NRCS office for information on upcoming meetings dealing specifically with the CSP program.

"I would strongly encourage producers to try and participate," Olin said said. "...Because the Upper Cannonball Watershed is going to be the only watershed in North Dakota in the 2008 CSP signup period."