Skip Navigation

News Release


Chris Groskreutz
(706) 546-2069

Natural Resources
Conservation Service
355 East Hancock Ave., Ste. 212
Athens, GA, 30601
Voice: 706-546-2272

Release No.: 00007.17 

Printable Version (PDF) (48 KB)

USDA’s Largest Conservation Program Helps Producers Improve Health, Productivity of Working Land

ATHENS, GA, April 11, 2017
— Acting Deputy Agricultural Secretary Michael Young announced recently that a renewal sign-up is underway for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) participants whose contracts expire Dec. 31. In that release, Young discussed some of the changes the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) made to the largest working lands conservation program with more than 80 million acres enrolled.

“The changes made to GSP are providing even greater opportunities for stewardship-minded producers across the country to participate and bring their conservation efforts to a higher level,” said Young. “The new tools and methods for evaluating operations, expanded options to address the producer’s conservation and business objectives, and the focus on local resource priorities have resulted in a 30 percent increase in applications for this widely popular program.”

In follow up to the late March release, Georgia State Conservationist Terrance O. Rudolph of the Natural Resources Conservation Service wants to remind those interested that they can take advantage of 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 expiring contracts are due by May 5.

“Since the beginning of CSP, farmers, ranchers and forest landowners have demonstrated that we can always do a little bit more to help the land. And this sign up is another opportunity for them to show their neighbors and the public that our producers are voluntarily doing their part to conserve the natural resources in their communities,” said Rudolph.

Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, buffer strips, pollinator and beneficial insect habitat, and soil health building activities – all while maintaining active agricultural production on their land. Benefits to producers can include improved cattle gains per acre; increased crop yields; decreased inputs; wildlife population improvements; and better resilience to weather extremes.

Jean Arnett, a fourth generation farmer in Colquitt County has participated in CSP to plant cover crops and lessen her inputs while making her farm’s soil healthier. “Participating in the Conservation Stewardship Program is highly beneficial for the soil health of our farmlands.” Arnett’s farm has a contract that is eligible to renew this year and will be among those who apply to renew. “I have children who are beginning farmers and their children are potential future generation farmers, so protecting our farmlands now is more important than ever.”

Another fourth generation farmer, Matt Coley, whose family grows cotton and peanuts in Dooly County, is confident the contracts they renewed last year will help keep his farm focusing in the long run. He said, “When you’ve had commodity prices dip like we’ve had in the last few years, conservation programs like CSP, that help you put in a cover crop and reduce your input costs per acre, has  helped my family and many other farmers in this area make it work. It can make a big difference in a farm’s bottom in a year like this, but also helps maintain our land’s productivity for years to come.”

Some of this year’s program changes have some currently enrolled producers wondering if CSP is still right for them. One question commonly asked earlier this year during the numerous NRCS-led CSP town hall meetings held all over Georgia, was about the required paperwork. Bert Hurst, whose family has been farming around Thomas County for five generations sees the benefit of conservation programs and encourages other farmers to consider them as well.

“My dad and I farm several pieces of land over four counties growing cotton, peanuts, corn, tobacco and some soybeans. Managing all the moving parts requires us to be on top of things and CSP helps us to stay focused on our long term plans.” Hurst added, “Now I’m not saying the paperwork is a joy, but as farmers we handle more difficult things during the course of growing our crops, so I tell folks not to let that fear hold them back.”

Producers interested in contract renewals or applying for CSP for the first time should visit or contact their local USDA service center to learn more.

More About CSP:

CSP was created in the 2008 Farm Bill, replacing the Conservation Security Program. The 2014 Farm Bill continued the program.

CSP has proven to be effective, with a large enrollment and high demand, but it’s important that it also be progressive and keep up with technology and producer’s desires to improve resources on their land. Through feedback from across the country, NRCS made improvements to make a good program even better.

New methods and software for evaluating applications will help producers see up front why they are or are not meeting stewardship thresholds, and allow them to select practices and enhancements that work for their conservation objectives. These new tools also allow producers to see potential payment scenarios for conservation early in the process.

CSP is designed for producers who already have conservation practices at work on their land and want to take their conservation actions to the next level.

Since 1935, NRCS’s nationwide conservation delivery system works with private landowners to put conservation on the ground based on specific, local conservation needs, while accommodating state and national interests. For more information about NRCS’ programs, initiatives and services in Georgia, visit us online at