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Pasture in Berkshire County, Massachusetts

Conservation Stewardship Program - Massachusetts

Apply by: November 3, 2023 - March 8, 2024

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) helps you build on your existing conservation efforts while strengthening your operation. 

Your Stewardship Goals. Our Assistance.

Have you ever looked across your property and thought about some land management goals you would like to take to the next level? Maybe we can help.

No one knows more about your land than you do, and no one knows more about conservation than we do. Together we can develop a plan tailored to your land and your goals to help you increase productivity and protect the value of your land.

Our Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) helps you build on your existing conservation efforts while strengthening your operation.  Whether you are looking to improve grazing conditions, increase crop yields, or develop wildlife habitat, we can custom design a CSP plan to help you meet those goals. We can help you schedule timely planting of cover crops, develop a grazing plan that will improve your forage base, implement no-till to reduce erosion or manage forested areas in a way that benefits wildlife habitat.  If you are already taking steps to improve the condition of the land, chances are CSP can help you find new ways to meet your goals.

Sustainable Production

CSP is for working lands. It is the largest conservation program in the United States with 70 million acres of productive agricultural and forest land enrolled in CSP. Thousands of people that have made the choice to voluntarily enroll in the program because it helps them enhance natural resources and improve their business operation.

CSP participants are seeing real results.  Some of these benefits include:

  • Improved cattle gains per acre
  • Increased crop yields
  • Decreased inputs
  • Wildlife population improvements
  • Better resilience to weather extremes

Through CSP, we can help you build your business while implementing conservation practices that help ensure the sustainability of your entire operation. Good land stewardship not only conserves the natural resources on your farm, ranch or forest, it also provides multiple benefits to local communities, including better water and air quality and wildlife habitat, as well as food and fiber.

How does CSP Work?

If you decide to enroll in CSP, the local NRCS conservation planner will have a one-on-one consultation with you to evaluate your current management system and the natural resources on your land. Then the NRCS conservation planner will present a variety of CSP enhancement alternatives for you to consider implementing on your land, based on existing conservation practices. The variety of CSP conservation activities that are offered give you a lot of freedom to select enhancements or practices that help you meet your management goals. These improvements work naturally with your land to bring out your land’s best potential.

CSP Conservation Activities

Applicants must schedule, install and adopt at least one new conservation activity (conservation practices, enhancements, or bundles) on the operation.   

Conservation practices must meet the criteria in the conservation practice standards and specifications available in the Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG).

Enhancements are a conservation activity used to treat natural resource concerns and improve producer conservation performance.  Enhancement adoption results in environmental benefits that are equal to or greater than the performance level for the planning criteria identified for a given resource concern. 

Enhancement Bundles are specific enhancements whose installation as a group produce conservation performance improvement and address resource concerns in a more comprehensive and cost-effective manner.

Supplemental payment options exist for the implementation of resource-conserving crop rotation.  A resource-conserving crop rotation is a rotation that includes at least one resource-conserving crop that reduces erosion, improves soil fertility and tilth, interrupts pest cycles in applicable areas, reduces depletion of soil moisture or otherwise reduces the need for irrigation, and may provide protection and habitat for pollinators.  


Applicant Eligibility – Applicants may include individuals, legal entities, joint operations or Indian Tribes. All CSP applications must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Be listed as the operator in the USDA farm records management system for the operation being offered for enrollment.
  • Document that they control the land for the term of the contract and include all eligible land in their entire operation in that contract.
  • Comply with highly erodible land and wetland conservation provisions and comply with Adjusted Gross Income provisions.
  • Comply with tenants and sharecroppers provision.

Land Eligibility – CSP is available to all producers, regardless of operation size or type of crops produced.  Eligible lands include private and Tribal agricultural lands (crop and pasture), nonindustrial private forest land (NIPF), associated agricultural land, and farmstead.  Producers must have effective control of the land for the term of the proposed contract.  Contracts must include all eligible land associated with the applicants agricultural or NIPF operation. 

Stewardship Threshold Eligibility – NRCS will use the Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART) to determine whether or not the applicant is addressing resource concerns in order to meet the stewardship eligibility requirement.

An applicant’s conservation activities must meet or exceed the stewardship threshold for the following:

  • At least two resource concerns at the time of contract offer on all land uses.
  • ​At least one additional resource concern by the end of the conservation stewardship contract on at least one land use.
  • Renewal applicants must meet or exceed two additional PRCs or implement new or improve existing conservation activities to achieve higher levels of conservations performance for a minimum of two priority resource concerns met or exceeded in the initial contract.  

Applications for conservation practices and systems will be prioritized. High priority applications will be ranked. Applications that will result in greater environmental benefits for national, state, and/or local natural resource priorities will receive a higher score. Applications are selected for funding in ranking order.

Additional restrictions and program requirements may apply.

State Priority Resource Concerns

Agricultural land

  • Degraded plant condition
  • Field pesticide loss
  • Field sediment, nutrient and pathogen loss
  • Livestock Limitation
  • Soil quality
  • Source Water Depletion
  • Terrestrial Habitat
  • Wind and water erosion

Non-industrial private forestland     

  • Aquatic habitat
  • Concentrated erosion
  • Degraded plant condition
  • Fire management
  • Pest pressure
  • Soil quality
  • Terrestrial Habitat
  • Wind and water erosion

CSP Contact in Massachusetts

Rita Thibodeau
Assistant State Conservationist for Programs

Ready to get started?

Contact your local service center to start your application.

Find Your Local Service Center

USDA Service Centers are locations where you can connect with Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or Rural Development employees for your business needs. Enter your state and county below to find your local service center and agency offices. If this locator does not work in your browser, please visit

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.

how to get started

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 number.

If you don’t have a farm 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 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. View Application Ranking Dates by State.

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.