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Rancher works with NRCS employees to do rangeland monitoring.

Conservation Stewardship Program - Montana

Apply by: October 27, 2023

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

NRCS can help you develop a plan tailored to your operation and your goals to help you increase productivity and protect the value of your land. Participants earn CSP payments for conservation performance—the higher the performance, the higher the payment. 


CSP in Montana

Eligible Conservation Practices

Not all conservation practices are used for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) in Montana. See Eligible Conservation Practices for CSP in Montana.

CSP Enhancements

Enhancements allow a producer to address additional levels of conservation beyond what the minimum conservation practice standard requires. CSP applicants who want to increase their conservation stewardship even further may consider “bundles” of enhancement activities.

Fiscal Year 2024 CSP Enhancements and Bundles available in Montana

Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry Mitigation

Applicants interested in adopting CSP activities that directly improve soil carbon, reduce nitrogen losses or reduce capture, avoid or sequester carbon dioxide, methane or nitrous oxide emissions associated with agricultural production must select at least one primary (core) climate-smart mitigation activity identified on the Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry Mitigation Activities List. Facilitating enhancements and practices which do not achieve the desired climate mitigation effects on their own may also be selected if they directly support the management or the function of a climate-smart activity.

Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Fact Sheet (September 2023) (PDF; 1.1 MB)
Montana Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry (CSAF) Mitigation Activities List for FY2024 (PDF; 534 KB)

Resource Conserving Crop Rotations (RCCRs)

An RCCR for Montana means a crop that is one of the following:

  • A perennial grass;
  • A legume grown for use as a cover crop, forage, seed for planting, or green manure;
  • A legume-grass or diverse grass-forb mixture comprised of species selected for climate, rainfall, soil, and other region-specific conditions; or
  • A small grain or other resource-demanding crop grown in combination with a grass, legume, other forbs, or grass-forb mixture, whether inter-seeded, relay-planted into the resource-demanding crop, or planted in rotation.

An improved resource conserving crop rotation further boosts an existing resource conserving crop rotation by either including an additional growing year for a state-determined perennial resource conserving crop, substituting a state-determined perennial resource conserving crop for a row crop, or changing a perennial legume to a state-determined perennial grass or grass/legume resource conserving crop.

Resource Conserving Crop Rotation (E328A April 2021) (PDF; 222.7 KB)
Improved Resource Conserving Crop Rotation (E328B July 2019) (PDF; 258.8)

Advanced Grazing Management (AGM)

Advanced grazing management uses a combination of grazing conservation activities that can include management-intensive rotational grazing for improved soil health and carbon sequestration, drought resilience, wildlife and pollinator habitat and wildfire mitigation. AGA activities can also include the control of invasive plants and water quality improvement.

Advanced Grazing Management (AGM May 2022) (PDF; 440.9 KB)

When to Apply

Program applications are accepted on a continual basis. However, NRCS establishes application ranking dates for evaluation, ranking and approval of eligible applications. Applications received after the ranking date will be automatically deferred to the next funding period. See Montana Programs and Application Dates.

Ranking Criteria

CSP Montana Ranking Questions. NRCS in Montana uses these questions to evaluate eligible applications for CSP and to prioritize applications for potential funding.

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.