The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) helps you build on your existing conservation efforts while strengthening your operation.
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.
CSP is for working lands. It is the largest conservation program in the United States, with more than 70 million acres of productive agricultural and forest land enrolled in the program. Thousands of people have made the choice to voluntarily enroll in the program because it helps them enhance natural resources and improve their business operation. Applications for CSP are accepted year-round. For more information, please visit the NRCS National CSP Site.
CSP in Utah
Through CSP, we can help you build your business while implementing conservation practices that will 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, as well as food and fiber. Eligible lands include cropland, pasture lands, rangeland, farmsteads, and non-industrial private forest lands. It includes agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe. The program also provides equitable access to all producers, regardless of operation size, crops produced, or geographic location.
Program participants take additional steps to improve resource condition including soil, water, air, plant, animal, and energy resources. Program participants are seeing improved cattle gains per acre, increased crop yields, decreased inputs, wildlife population improvements, and better resilience to weather extremes.
Conservation activities include conservation practices, enhancements, and enhancement bundles. 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.
- 2023 CSP enhancements and bundles.
- Applicant Eligibility – Applicants may include individuals, legal entities, or joint operations. All CSP applications must meet the following eligibility requirements for CSP "Classic":
- Be the operator, owner, or other tenant of an agricultural operation in the Farm Service Agency (FSA) farm records management system. Note: Producers must establish or update records with FSA before NRCS will consider them eligible.
- Have effective control of the land (as defined in the CSP regulation at 7CFR Part 1470) and include all eligible land in their entire operation in their contract.
- Comply with highly erodible land and wetland conservation provisions and comply with Adjusted Gross Income provisions.
- Comply with provisions for protecting the interests of tenants and sharecroppers, including the provisions for sharing payments on a fair and equitable basis.
- Land Eligibility – CSP is available to all producers, regardless of operation size or type of crops produced. Eligible lands include private agricultural lands (crop, pasture, and rangeland), nonindustrial private forest land (NIPF), associated agricultural land, and farmstead.
- Public land associated with the land uses described above is eligible, if under the effective control of the applicant, and if a working component of the producer’s agricultural or NIPF operation.
- 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 and 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 on all land uses for both of the following:
- At least two resource concern categories at the time of contract offer on all land uses included in the operation.
- At least one additional resource concern category by the end of the conservation stewardship
- contract on at least one land use.
Additional restrictions and program requirements may apply.
CSP, CSP-IRA Application Deadlines:
- November 3, 2023: Batch 1 application deadline.
- March 29, 2024: Batch 2 application deadline.
- June 28, 2024: Batch 3 application deadline.
CSP and CSP-IRA will be processed using ACT now with a final ranking deadline of June 28, 2024.
CSP Grasslands Conservation Initiative
This new initiative assists producers in protecting grazing land uses, conserving and improving soil, water and wildlife resources and achieving related conservation values by conserving eligible land through grassland conservation contracts. Eligible lands are limited to cropland for which base acres have been maintained under FSA’s ARC/PLC and were planted to grass or pasture, including idle or fallow, during a specific period. Enrolled acreage must be managed consistently with a grassland conservation plan. Producers will have a single opportunity to enroll eligible land in a five-year contract.
Participating in the program represents a genuine commitment to conservation. Contracts are for five years with the option to renew if you successfully fulfill the initial contract and agree to achieve additional conservation objectives.
How do I Apply
If you're ready to take your conservation efforts to the next level we are here to help.
NRCS accepts CSP application on a continuous basis. Applicants must submit Form NRCS‐CPA‐1200, “Conservation Program Application,” and a map delineating the entire agricultural or NIPF operation. Agricultural land applications will compete separately from nonindustrial private forest land (NIPF) applications. An applicant with both NIPF and agricultural land can submit one application for NIPF, one for agricultural land, or two applications (one for each land type). Applicants requesting consideration as a veteran, socially disadvantaged, or beginning farmer or rancher must self‐certify by marking all applicable status boxes on Form: NRCS-CPA-1200 Conservation Program Contract.
Eligible applications that meet the stewardship threshold eligibility requirements will be ranked using the Conservation, Assessment, and Ranking Tool (CART). NRCS ranks CSP applications based on the following factors:
- Level of conservation treatment on all targeted resource concerns at the time of application.
- Degree to which proposed conservation activities effectively increase conservation performance.
- Number of, and extent to which, targeted and non-targeted resource concerns will be treated by the end of the contract.
Benefits to Participants:
Subject to the availability of funds, participants will receive one payment per fiscal year of the contract, as soon as practicable after October 1, which includes:
- An annual payment for maintaining and managing existing conservation activities.
- Payments for installing and adopting additional conservation activities.
- Supplemental payments on cropland where a resource conserving crop rotation has been adopted or improved.
Each conservation stewardship contract with a person or legal entity will be limited to $200,000 over the term of the initial contract period. Conservation stewardship contracts with joint operations (FSA business type 2 or 3) may have a contract limit of up to $400,000 over the term of the initial contract period.
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.