This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

March 23, 2005

USDA Conservation Program Includes Efficiency, Renewable Incentives

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on March 17th that its Conservation Security Program (CSP) will start accepting sign-ups from farmer and ranchers on March 28th. Although the program is primarily meant to support ongoing stewardship of private agricultural lands, this year's program sign-up includes a renewable energy and energy efficiency component. Eligible producers will receive compensation for conducting energy audits, for cutting their energy use, for converting to renewable energy fuels (such as biodiesel or ethanol), and for implementing renewable energy production, including methane production as well as wind, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal energy. See the USDA press release and the CSP job sheets for energy enhancement activities.

According to the USDA, roughly 235,000 farmer and ranchers in 220 watersheds will be eligible for this year's CSP. The 220 watersheds represent more than 185 million acres in every state and the Caribbean, including 2 million acres of tribal lands. Congress funded the CSP at $202 million in fiscal year 2005, which will allow the USDA to write an estimated 12,000 to 14,000 contracts. The payments are divided into three tiers, based on the level of conservation achieved, with the highest tier earning up to $45,000 annually for 5 to 10 years. See the CSP Program Web site, which includes the latest amendment to the rules and a list of eligible watersheds.