Friday, December 19, 2003 ByShawn Wade
Since passage of the FarmSecurity and Rural Investment Act of 2002, one of the most anticipated newprograms it included was the Conservation Security Program. After months ofhard work the United States Department of Agriculture has finally released aset of proposed rules to carry out the program.
Oneof the major issues that USDA has dealt with in developing the CSP rules hasbeen the changing funding authority for the program. Originally passed as anentitlement program with no overall funding limit, the CSP has since beenrestricted in its funding authority by The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2003which capped the program at $3.773 Billion over ten years.
At this time theCSP faces a further funding restriction in The Omnibus Appropriations Bill of2004. This Bill currently contains language that would reduce CSP fundingauthority even more. As proposed, the $3.773 billion ten year funding cap wouldbe removed and replaced by a one year $41 million funding limit for FY 04.
The proposed ruledefines eligible land as agricultural land in cropland, orchards, vineyards,pasture and range, regardless of size, location or crops produced. Forest landor land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Programor Grassland Reserve Program will not be considered eligible for the CSPprogram.
Applicants mustaddress water quality and soil quality concerns as part of the initialrequirements to establish program eligibility. Enrollment will be targeted tothose operations demonstrating the highest levels of stewardship.
CSP payments willbe based on three “tiers” that correspond to increasing levels of conservationactivity. Payment amounts rise with increased levels of treatment.
The three tiersare capped at $20,000, $35,000 and $45,000 annually and will last for fiveyears for Tier I and 5-10 years for Tier II and Tier III.
In addition, theBase payments for each tier are proposed to be capped as follows: $5,000 forTier I, $10,500 for Tier II and $13,500 for Tier III. USDA’s decision to capthe amount payable through the Base component is to encourage additionalconservation efforts by focusing more of the overall payment on implementationof those activities.
Final CSP paymentamounts will be composed of payments from up to four different paymentcomponents as applicable: 1) Base Component – calculated based on specific landuse categories, 2) Existing Practice Component – to offset costs associated withmaintaining existing conservation practices, 3) New Practice Component – tooff-set a portion of the cost of implementing new conservation practices, and4) Enhancement Component – to provide additional payments for exceptionalconservation efforts.
The proposed rulehas a 60-day comment period and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Serviceis encouraging anyone interested to submit comments during this time. Thecomment period opened on December 19 with publication of the proposed rule inthe Federal Register.
As part of thecomment process, listening sessions will be held in a number of locationsacross the country to gain additional input.
Comments on theCSP proposed rule may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to ConservationSecurity Program Comments, ATTN: David McKay, NRCS Conservation OperationsDivision, P.O. Box 2890, Washington, D.C. 20013.
Friday, December 19, 2003 ByShawn Wade
With the Bush Administrationtouting completion of a new Central American Free Trade Agreement, the politicsof trade, free or fair, will continue to be a hot campaign year topic in 2004.
Whether or not the deal isactually final may be a question of semantics as one country (Costa Rica) hasat least temporarily backed out of the negotiations and several pointsapparently remain to be finalized.
For cotton and its allies inthe textile industry the CAFTA deal offers opportunity as well as the potentialfor future problems. For U.S. textile manufacturers lax textile rules couldcause more problems than they solve if the region is allowed to become anotherhole for transshipment of textile goods to America from other parts of theworld.
Cotton industry support forCAFTA continues to be contingent on making sure the benefits of the agreementaccrue to the signatory countries and their industries. It is imperative thatCAFTA not allow loopholes for third party countries that might cause furtherlosses in the U.S. manufacturing sector.
The industry has made itclear that should the final agreement contain such loopholes and adverselyimpact U.S. jobs, that final approval in Congress could be next to impossibleand make the negotiations a wasted opportunity to create a competitiveatmosphere in which U.S. manufacturers and cotton growers could compete withChina and other countries.