Today’s the start of signup for this year’s Conservation Security Program. It’s just the second year for the program, which was created in the latest federal farm bill. Tom O’Connor, resource conservationist with N-R-C-S, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, says today (Monday) is the first day farmers can sign up some of their land for the program for this year. The Conservation Security Program was authorized by the Farm Bill in 2002 and last year Iowa’s Blue Earth and Nishnabotna watersheds were part of the pilot year for the C-S-P. Because that pilot project was new and the signup process rushed, the agency’s just learned those two will be part of the signup area again this year. The Turkey River Watershed in northeast Iowa, the Upper Wapsipinicon, which we share with Minnesota, the North Raccoon watershed which stretches from Des Moines up to Palo Alto County, and shared with Missouri, the Platte River watershed. He notes that may fool some people — Nebraska’s Platte River Valley is not part of that one. O’Connor says this program’s a new one for the agency,a change in the way it’s always operated.He says it’s a program that rewards farmers who’re already good stewards. Many programs in the past aimed to correct problems, and if a person was already a good steward, there was no reward for that. This program’s “A different spin on that,” he explains, and rewards farmers whose land shows high soil and water quality already. The agency looks at things like whether a farmer’s using tillage and crop rotation to maintain and increase the “soil conditioning index.” For water wuality, they look for farmers who are managing nutrients, sediments and pesticides so they have a good effect, or at least not an adverse impact, on both surface and ground water. The program will remain despoite the prospect of federal budget cuts, O’Connor says, and the amount of future funding will determine how few or how many Iowa watersheds can be part of it. Those 6 in Iowa are among 220 watersheds across the nation, and the signup beginning today will run through May 27. Get more on the program and how to sign up, by surfing to: