Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Friday that the Natural Resources Conservation Service is seeking public comment on the new Conservation Stewardship Program, which is designed to encourage agricultural and forestry producers to maintain existing conservation practices and adopt additional ones in their operations.

The public can submit comments for 60 days and must be submitted on or before Sept. 28, 2009. For full details about the new Conservation Stewardship Program, please visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/new_csp or visit your local NRCS field office.

"It is important for Americans to provide feedback about the programs that their government provides on their behalf and they now have this opportunity to comment on the Conservation Stewardship Program," Vilsack said. "We developed the interim final rule for this program in order to appeal to our diverse customers and offer them an equal chance to participate."

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill) authorized the Conservation Stewardship Program. Congress renamed and revamped the former Conservation Security Program to improve its availability and appeal to agricultural and forestry producers. The Conservation Stewardship Program will be offered in all 50 states, District of Columbia, and the Pacific and Caribbean areas through continuous sign-ups with announced cut-off application dates for ranking periods. Congress capped the annual acreage enrollment at 12,769,000 acres nationwide.

Comments on the Conservation Stewardship Program interim final rule can be submitted online, or through regular mail, e-mail, fax or in person. Information on how to submit comments is available at the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service's Web site at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/farmbill/2008/index.html .