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Applying for Federal Programs

Applying for Federal Farm Conservation Programs

NRCS discussing conservation options

A federal farm conservation program contract (CPC) is a legal, binding agreement between the federal government and an eligible program participant. Under terms of the CPC, the participant receives a payment for implementing a conservation practice. The federal government receives off-farm environmental benefits associated with the conservation practice.

Only a limited number of practices associated with high priority environmental concerns are available for a CPC. These practices vary from state to state as priorities change across regions.

The payment rate for each practice is based on both the cost of practice implementation and the relative value of the environmental benefits received, as determined by the state technical advisory committee on an annual basis.

Contract payments are made to participants based on the extent of the practice performed, reflective of the benefits received. Practices must meet minimum specifications to achieve the desired environmental benefits prior to payment.

Programs Covered

AMA Agricultural Management Assistance Program
CRP Conservation Reserve Program
CREP Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program
CSP Conservation Stewardship Program
EQIP Environmental Quality Incentives Program
GRP Grassland Reserve Program
SAFE State Acres for Wildlife Program
WHIP Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program
WRP Wetland Reserve Program

Eligibility Documentation

Farmfield in Autumn

Eligibility criteria for entering into a CPC are established by Congress in the Farm Bill and vary by conservation program. The specific requirements can be found by visiting your local field office. It is the applicant’s responsibility to submit the required documentation.

Basic Requirements

Applicants must have control of the land for the term of the proposed contract. “Control” is defined as possession of the land by ownership, written lease, or other legal agreement.

Applicants must comply with the provisions for protecting the interests of the tenants, which includes the provisions for sharing payments. Before any tenant can be excluded from a contract, written consent must be obtained.

Applicants must be engaged in agricultural production (including forestry) or have an interest in the agricultural operation associated with the land being offered for enrollment.

For an entity, such as a family owned business or non-profit, the applicant must have the legal authority to act on behalf of the entity. The CCC-901 will identify which member(s) may sign on behalf of the entity. If the entity would like a non-member to sign on its behalf, then FSA-211 must be completed to authorize a person to act on the entity’s behalf. All members of the entity will be required to individually complete certain documents. Entities must obtain a DUNS number and SAM number.



an individual or entity that completes the application paperwork and identifies land to be enrolled in the program. The IRS identification number provided by the applicant is used to establish eligibility and generate IRS-1099s for the contract. Applicant names and ID numbers must be cross-checked against IRS records to verify eligibility before an application can be accepted.


an individual who controls the enrolled land and uses their personal social security number (SSN) to apply for conservation program assistance


any partnership, corporation (limited liability or other), joint venture, estate, trust, or non-profit association or group that controls the enrolled land and uses an employer identification number (EIN) or tax identification number (TIN) to apply for conservation program assistance.

Application Forms

Application forms are available at any USDA Service Center, or you can request them to be sent to you by calling your local USDA Service Center.

There are different forms used by the programs (Documents require Adobe Acrobat Reader).

  • CRP, CREP, and SAFE - Conservation Reserve Program Worksheet (CRP2)
  • AMA, WHIP, CSP, EQIP, and WRP - Conservation Program Application (NRCS-CPA-1200)
  • GRP - Application for Long-Term Contracted Assistance (AD1153)

Other Forms Required

Documents listed below require Adobe Acrobat Reader.

  • AD -1026 -All applicants are required to have an interest in agricultural land, either as an owner or operator, and are therefore required to complete a Highly Erodible Land Conservation (HELC) and Wetland Conservation (WC) Certification if one is not already on file for the current crop year.

  • CCC-933 - Applicants are required to fill out a Payment Eligibility Average Adjusted Gross Income Certification. Federal conservation programs exclude from eligibility for conservation programs applicants who have an average annual adjusted gross income (AGI) greater than $1 million for the three tax years preceding the application fiscal year, unless more than 2/3 of their AGI is derived from farming or forestry operations.

  • CCC-901 - For all entities, a CCC901A form is needed to identify the members of the entity and the percent of ownership of each member.

  • SF_1199a -A Direct Deposit Sign-up Form with electronic funds transfer information is required to establish the vendor record and ensure the correct name and tax ID have been used. All USDA program payments are made through direct deposit.
  • Conservation Planning Worksheet - New applicants to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are required to complete a Conservation Planning Worksheet that providers basic information about their farm operation, resource concerns, and goals.

  • Applicants may also be asked to verify their status using IRS tax records if they self-certify as a Beginning Farmer or Limited Resource Farmer.

Summary of Application Steps

  1. The applicant indicates interest in one or more programs and completes the program application form, all eligibility documentation, and the Conservation Planning Worksheet.

    Applicants have 30 days from the date of the original application to correctly complete all eligibility paperwork.

  2. USDA completes an initial evaluation of the land and determines the resource concerns with the eligible applicant. This may include NRCS visits to the property or applicant visits to the USDA office to discuss alternatives and program requirements. Any applicant who does not own the enrolled land will also be required to obtain the landowner’s signature to apply for permanent practices. 

  3. USDA develops a draft conervation plan, a proposed Schedule of Operations including proposed payments, and finalizes the program application package. The applicant reviews, makes corrections to and signs the final program application package. The signature indicates the applicant’s agreement with the contract items, including the schedule, extent and payment amounts.

    Only limited changes to the application will be allowed after this point, so it is important for the applicant to be fully engaged in this step.

  4. USDA selects applications for contracting based on available funding.

  5. The applicant and USDA complete contract documents. The applicant should be aware of all contract terms, requirements and penalties for non-compliance before signing. After NRCS signature, the applicant may begin installing the contracted practices.

  6. Once an application is funded, the applicant must continue to meet Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation provisions throughout the contract period in order to receive program payments.


This information is available as a brochure that can be downloaded here. (PDF, 455 kb)

updated November 21, 2013