CHAMPAIGN, Ill.Bill Gradle, NRCS State Conservationist in Illinois, spoke from a farm near Capron, Ill., Aug. 27 and echoed Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman in announcing that $41 million in contracts will be awarded to thousands of farmers and ranchers in 22 states who will be the first in the nation to participate in the new Conservation Security Program (CSP). In Illinois, one of 22 states to participate in this debut program year, Gradle of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that 191 contracts and $2.9 million in funds would be awarded to outstanding conservation-minded producers in the Kishwaukee River watershed.
Gradle spoke from the Boone County farm of Richard and Karen Gadke and presented them a plaque and sign for their farm, thanking them for their long-term commitment to the protection of natural resources on their land. The event commemorated the signing of the first NRCS CSP contract in Illinois. Gradle said producers in the Kishwaukee would receive between $3,000 and $23,000 for a broad range of conservation work that protects and enhances natural resources including water quality, soil quality and wildlife habitat.
CSP applicants participate in the new program on three different tiers reflecting both their documented historical conservation management as well as their agreement to do additional practices to further enhance the environment. Within the Kishwaukee Watershed, 19 applications were at Tier I, 157 at Tier II, and 15 at Tier III. Tier III recognizes the highest level of conservation.
The Gadkes operation was rated at Tier III, said Dave Brandt, NRCS district conservationist from McHenry County, who served as CSP team leader for the Kiskwaukee effort. The Gadke farm has a broad range of sustainable practices, including pest and nutrient management, crop rotations that include small grains, contour and conservation farming, wildlife habitat improvements, and quality protection of soil and water.
Each speaker commended all Illinois CSP applicants who demonstrate a family history and devotion to conservation. This program was created to reward and recognize the long-term action and commitment of conservationists and stewards like the Gadke family, Gradle added. All successful applicants have achieved high technical standards for protecting soil and water quality, said Ron Doetch, Chairman of the Boone County Soil and Water Conservation District, who also spoke at the event.
According to Gradle, These are model conservationists who we can point to as our first line of defense in managing ecosystems like the Kishwaukee Watershed with both productivity and careful stewardship as twin goals. While conservation incentive programs and technical assistance from NRCS date back to the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s, CSP represents the first time agricultural producers are being paid for ongoing stewardship.
CSP is a voluntary program that supports ongoing conservation stewardship of agricultural working lands and enhances the condition of Americas natural resources. For more information on CSP and other NRCS programs, see http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs.