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.
How to Apply for USDA-NRCS Conservation Programs
Learn what steps you will need to take to prepare for, and submit, your application to become a USDA-NRCS Conservation Program participant.
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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. To access copies of the CMT Operation Baseline Data or CMT Inventory Questions, please visit the National CSP Web site.
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.
The 2008 Farm Bill recognized the growing interest and support of organic agriculture across the country and required the development of a transparent means by which producers may initiate organic certification while participating in a CSP contract. "The Conservation Stewardship Program's Contribution to Organic Transitioning - The Organic Crosswalk", provides an explanation of how participants can use CSP enhancements to assist them in meeting individual National Organic Program (NOP) rules while going through the transitioning period.
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The Organic Crosswalk (PDF; 60 KB)
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CSP Fact Sheet (PDF; 618 KB)
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