Conservation Stewardship Program
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is a voluntary conservation program that encourages producers to address resource concerns in a comprehensive manner by undertaking additional conservation activities and improving, maintaining, and managing existing conservation activities.
Through the Conservation Stewardship Program, NRCS will provide financial and technical assistance to eligible producers to conserve and enhance soil, water, air, plants, animals, and related natural resources on their land.
Eligible lands include privately owned cropland, grassland, improved pastureland, non-industrial private forestland, agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe, and other private agricultural land (including cropped woodland, marshes, and agricultural land used for the production of livestock) on which participants can address resource concerns related to agricultural production.
NRCS offers the Conservation Stewardship Program on a continuous signup basis, meaning NRCS accepts applications year-round with periodic ranking cutoff dates announced during the year.
The program provides equitable access to all producers, regardless of operation size, crops produced, or geographic location. Individuals, business entities, and Indian tribes operating privately owned agricultural or non-industrial private forestland might be eligible for the program.
** 2015 Application Period Deadline Extended to March 13, 2015 **
How to Apply
Visit your local USDA Service Center or visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted for information to get starts. Also, learn what steps you will need to take to prepare for, and submit your application to become a USDA-NRCS Conservation Program participant.
If you are interested in participating in CSP, you will need to submit an application to your local NRCS office. For information regarding the CSP contact your local USDA-NRCS office or visit the National NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program web site.
The following documents require Adobe Reader. All documents are less than 125 KB in size.
Select the Activity List from the table above to help you identify new activities you may be interested in adopting.
Enhancement Activity Job Sheets
Enhancement means a type of conservation activity used to treat natural resources and improve conservation performance. Enhancements are installed at a level of management intensity which exceeds the sustainable level for a given resource concern. Some enhancements relate directly to an NRCS conservation practice standard. Participants selecting these enhancements apply them in a manner that exceeds the minimum treatment requirements of the standard.
Ranking Period One Enhancement Activity Job Sheets
Conservation Measurement Tool (CMT) - Operation Baseline Data Questions
The first step in the ranking process is complete an inventory of your baseline farm data. This includes information related to your overall farming operation and the general resource conditions present. NRCS field personnel will conduct an interview with you to define your Operation Baseline Data. The CMT will use this data, in part, to determine the conservation performance for existing and additional conservation activities.
Conservation Measurement Tool (CMT) - Inventory Questions
During the interview, NRCS field personnel will also ask you several inventory questions about your management and cultural practices, as well as about conservation activities you have already undertaken on your operation. The CMT uses this information to calculate your existing performance points and your additional activity points, which are the basis for your ranking score. The CMT determines the conservation performance for existing and additional conservation activities.
Conservation Measurement Tool (CMT) Scoring Process
NRCS uses the CMT to evaluate CSP applications through a point-based system to estimate environmental benefits. The CMT evaluates existing and proposed new activities to calculate conservation performance points, which NRCS uses for ranking and payment purposes.
Essential to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is the use of conservation activities which provide additional environmental benefit(s). Of the activities (i.e., enhancements, bundles and practices) contained in the Activity List from which producers can select, a large proportion have a high likelihood of adoption by organic producers or those who are interested in transitioning to organic. Following is an explanation of CSP conservation activities which can aid the process of “transitioning” to organic farming or in maintaining NOP “certified” organic status. In the following document, NRCS uses the terms “organic transition” to describe the process of coming into NOP compliance, and the term “transitioning period” for the time period between a farmer’s decision to become organic and his/her completion of the organic transition.
Note: Conservation activities included in this document are viewed as top priority activities that can substantially assist organic/transitioning producers to meet the requirements of the NOP standard, and which organic producers are most likely to integrate into their farming system. Activities not listed are considered to only make minor contributions toward the NOP standard or are less likely to be adopted. Additionally, bundles are not included since they are an aggregate of individual enhancements.
The Organic Crosswalk (PDF; 60 KB) - requires Adobe Reader.
Landscape Conservation Initiative Pilot
To accelerate the achievement of conservation results through targeted delivery, NRCS is implementing a CSP pilot opportunity for 2015 in the Sage Grouse, Lesser Prairie Chicken and Ogallala Aquifer Initiatives. The pilot will be offered under the General CSP Signup. Prescreening tools are available below to help producers determine if their operation falls within the pilot.
CSP Fact Sheet (PDF, 618KB)