The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) offers technical and financial assistance to help agricultural and forest producers take their conservation efforts to the next level.
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CSP compensates agricultural and forest producers who agree to increase their level of conservation by adopting additional conservation activities and maintaining their baseline level of conservation. If you are already taking steps to improve the condition of your land, chances are CSP can help you find new ways to meet your goals.
How CSP Works
CSP is a 5-year program that offers opportunities for producers to expand on existing conservation efforts by applying new conservation practices and enhancements. These new activities will help enhance natural resources and improve the operation. For example, if you have been planting a cover crop, you may decide to try an enhancement for a multi-species cover crop or implement a deep-rooted cover crop to break up soil compaction.
If you decide to apply for CSP, a conservation planner will have a one-on-one consultation with you to evaluate your current management system and the resources on your land. This will calculate your “stewardship threshold” which determines your eligibility. You will then work with the NRCS conservation planner to select new CSP conservation practices and enhancements. If your application is selected for funding, CSP offers annual payments for implementing these enhancements on your land in addition to operating and maintaining existing conservation efforts.
Eligible lands include private agricultural lands, nonindustrial private forest land, farmstead, associated agricultural lands and public land that is under the control of the applicant and part of their operation. There is no minimum acreage requirement. CSP enrolls your entire operation into the program, not just one specific field or tract. Forest lands require a current Forest Management Plan.
Annual CSP payments are made once per year for the 5 years of the contract and have 2 components:
- Base Payments: Payments to maintain the existing level of conservation based on the land uses included in the contract (this is based on the Stewardship Threshold evaluation and acres enrolled)
- Practice Payments: Payments to implement additional conservation practices and enhancements.
A $1500 minimum payment applies for each of the 5 years of the contract.
New IRA CSP applications must be received by June 2, 2023 to be considered for this funding period.
Maryland Program Contact
Farm Bill Program Specialist (AMA, CSP, RCPP)
Ready to get started?
Contact your local service center to start your application.
How to Get Assistance
Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?
Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.
To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.
NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.
We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:
- To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
- To meet other eligibility certifications.
Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.
Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.
As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:
- An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
- A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
- A farm tract number.
If you don’t have a farm tract number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm tract number if you’re interested in financial assistance.
NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants.
If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.
Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.