Cedar River Watershed CSP Meeting Series

George Cummins, Crops Field Specialist, Northeast

Problem Statement:
The Conservation Security Program (CSP) is the first USDA Farm Bill to reward farmers who have adopted best management practices related to Nutrient and Pest Management; Soil and Water Quality; Grazing and Wildlife Management; and Energy Management. Qualified applicants can earn annual payments up to $45,000 with contracts extending up to 10 years.   Enrollment is limited to select watersheds each year. The original intent was to complete initial signup in 7 years. Because of funding constraints, signup opportunities have been delayed/extended further into the future.  Under current rules, if producers miss their initial signup opportunity, they will need to wait till the watershed rotation is complete and a new signup is announced in their watershed.
Producers in the Blue Earth River Watershed (2004) and the Upper Wapsipinicon/ Turkey River Watersheds (2005) have had the opportunity to apply for CSP payments. For a variety of reasons, only 15% of the total watershed acres and 16% of potential producers were accepted into the CSP. NRCS personnel who administered the signup in the 2005 watersheds indicate that 75 90% of the producers they worked with who made the effort to complete the application process, qualified at some payment level.
The Cedar River Resource, Conservation and Development District (R, C and D) serves 8 counties in NE Iowa. The opportunity for CSP signup in the Cedar River Watershed is expected within the next few years.  Producers need to be aware of the CSP and its requirements and begin preparing now to qualify for the program. 
Programmatic Response:
Kurt Hoeft, the Cedar Valley R,C and D executive director; Mike Webster, the NRCS CSP education coordinator; the 8 NRCS District Conservationists and the ISU Crop Specialist developed an informational folder and a ppt presentation to explain the CSP program and signup process; the Soil Conditioning Index, RUSLE2, and the Iowa Phosphorous Index which are used to determine eligibility; ISU recommendations related to nutrient and pest management; and recordkeeping systems to document various practices. Darrin Seifken, former Bremer Co CEED, was hired to organize 6 meetings for producers and 3 meetings for Ag Professionals to provide information about the CSP and how to prepare to qualify- hopefully at the higher levels. Each 2-hour meeting was hosted by a local SWCD Commissioner with teaching responsibilities split between the County NRCS DC and the ISU Extension Crop Specialist.  
Total attendance (475) at the 6 producer meetings had a range of 37 to 98 and an average of 75. The first 2 meetings for Ag Professionals attracted 33 participants which included bankers, crop consultants, company agronomists and farm managers eager to learn how to help their producer clients qualify for CSP.  These numbers far exceeded our expectations and are also greater than informational meetings being held in watersheds currently open for signup. R, C and D and NRCS staff have received requests for copies of our program and materials to use in their watersheds.
These meetings have generated increased office contacts related to the topics discussed at the CSP meeting for all the sponsoring agencies and also to Ag Professionals from their clients. This meeting series provided the opportunity for R, C and D, NRCS and Extension staff to work together cooperatively; to share experiences related to problems from previous sign-ups; to share information on current watershed and on-farm demonstration efforts in the 8 counties; and to identify areas where extension recommendations and agency guidelines may be incompatible or in conflict. The conflicting issues identified by this project have been shared on campus and with agency staff in Des Moines to encourage debate and resolution.
These meetings provided a teachable moment for the ISU Crop Specialist to showcase new technologies (NH3 application equipment, GMOs, GPS/ GIS, etc) and to explain current ISU research findings and recommendations related to sampling procedures and test interpretation, Maximum Return to N Tables, pesticide and nutrient use related to water quality; equipment calibration; tillage and soil quality; and sustainable ag production systems.
The ultimate measure of the impact of this meeting series (successful signup % and payment level) will not be realized until the Cedar River Watershed is selected for CSP signup. All involved agree that the meeting participants will be better prepared for the signup when it comes. There is also general consensus that adoption of the BMPs and ISU recommendations would reduce input costs, improve efficiencies and/or increase profitability. These meetings would provide economic benefit even if the opportunity for CSP enrollment never materializes.      

March 22, 2006
103 - Nutrient Management; 142- Integrated Pest and Crop Management; 147 - Sustainable Agriculture

Page last updated: July 10, 2006
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu