Conservation Stewardship Program - Payment for Performance
Cutoff March 31 for CSP Applications, Renewals
NRCS accepts applications for CSP throughout the year, but agricultural producers should submit applications by March 31 to USDA service centers to ensure they are considered for enrollment in 2016.
Participants with existing CSP contracts that will expire on Dec.31, 2016 have the option to renew their contracts for an additional five years if they agree to adopt additional activities to achieve higher levels of conservation on their lands. Applications to renew are also due by March 31.
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) presents a significant shift in how the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides conservation program payments. CSP participants will receive an annual land use payment for operation-level environmental benefits they produce. Under CSP, participants are paid for conservation performance: the higher the operational performance, the higher their payment.
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.
CSP is available on Tribal and private agricultural lands and non-industrial private forest land in all 50 States and the Caribbean and Pacific Islands Areas. The program provides equitable access to all producers, regardless of operation size, crops produced, or geographic location. The Secretary of Agriculture has delegated administrative authority for CSP to the NRCS Chief.
How CSP Works
CSP encourages land stewards to improve their conservation performance by installing and adopting additional activities, and improving, maintaining, and managing existing activities on agricultural land and nonindustrial private forest land. NRCS accepts applications for CSP at local service centers, Nationwide, on a continuous basis.
The State Conservationist, in consultation with the State Technical Committee and local work groups, will focus program impacts on natural resources that are of specific concern for a State, or specific geographic areas within a State. Applications will be evaluated relative to other applications addressing similar priority resource concerns to facilitate a competitive ranking process among applicants within a State who face similar resource challenges.
The entire operation must be enrolled and must include all eligible land operated substantially separate that will be under the applicant's control for the term of the proposed contract.
CSP offers participants two possible types of payments:
- Annual payment for installing and adopting additional activities, and improving, maintaining, and managing existing activities
- Supplemental payment for the adoption of resource-conserving crop rotations
Through CSP, NRCS will provide financial and technical assistance to eligible producers to conserve and enhance soil, water, air, and related natural resources on their land.
- Nonindustrial Private Forest
- Agricultural Land Under the Jurisdiction of an Native American Tribe or Tribal Nation
- And other Private Agricultural Land (including Cropped Woodland, Marshes, and Agricultural Land used for the Production of Livestock) on which Resource Concerns Related to Agricultural Production Could be Addressed.
Is CSP Right For Me?
You can play a large role in determining whether or not CSP is right for you. Here's how:
2016 Conservation Stewardship Self-Screening Checklist
Download and fill out the 2016 Conservation Stewardship Self-Screening Checklist (PDF, 178KB)
You don't have to turn it in to NRCS; it's there to help you determine for CSP is right for you. If you have questions regarding the Checklist, please contact your local NRCS office.
2014 Farm Bill CSP Fact Sheet
The 2014 CSP program fact sheet created for the 2014 Farm Bill is available for download and printing (PDF, 618KB).
FY 2016 Ranking Period One Program Documents
Conservation Program Application NRCS-CPA-1200 (PDF, 104KB)
Note: FY2016 Job sheets and payment rates remain the same as FY2015.
2016 Ranking Period One Enhancement Activity Job Sheets
An "enhancement" is a conservation activity used to treat natural resources and improve conservation performance. Enhancements are designed to maintain or exceed the quality criteria, or stewardship level, for the resource concern. Enhancements tied directly to conservation practices standards exceed the minimum treatment requirements of the standard to address additional criteria or considerations. Conservation practice standards and quality criteria for resource concerns can be found in sections II and III of the Field Office Technical Guide (eFOTG).
All Enhancements | Air Quality | Animal | Bundles | Energy | Plant | Soil Erosion and Soil Quality | Water Quality | Water Quantity | Supplemental Payment Activity
2016 Payment for Performance Payment Rates
The 2016 Payment for Performance payment rates are available as HTML.
Download and look over the Conservation Program Activity List to identify new activities you may be interested in to install or adopt
- "Enhancement" means a type of conservation activity used to treat natural resources and greatly improve conservation performance.
- Enhancements are installed at a level of management intensity which exceeds the sustainable level for a given resource concern.
- Enhancements directly related to a practice standard are applied in a manner that exceeds the minimum treatment requirements of the standard.
2015 Activity List (PDF, 112KB)
Operations Baseline Data Questions
To initiate the use of the Conservation Measurement Tool (CMT) during the CSP application process, you'll work with NRCS field personnel 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.
The documents below are copies of the Operation Baseline Data questions, grouped by land use. You can download and review the questions, and begin drafting responses to start the process before you meet with NRCS staff.
Conservation Measurement Tool Inventory (CMT) Questions
As part of the CSP application process, you'll work with NRCS field personnel to complete your resource inventory using a Conservation Measurement Tool (CMT). The CMT determines the conservation performance for existing and additional conservation activities.
The documents below are copies of the resource inventory questions, grouped by land use. You can download and review the questions, and begin drafting responses to start resource inventory process before you complete the CMT in your local NRCS office.
Conservation Measurement Tool (CMT) Scoring Process
NRCS will use 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 will be used for ranking and payment purposes.
Conservation performance points are programmed in the CMT, along with all controls, filters, and calculations. A scientific validation of CMT is underway and future modifications to these points may be needed.
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 CSP enhancements can be used to assist producers in meeting individual National Organic Program (NOP) rules while going through the transitioning period.
The Organic Crosswalk (PDF, 62KB)