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Conservation Stewardship Program

Conservation Stewardship ProgramHave 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.

What is the Conservation Stewardship Program?

The Conservation Stewardship Program is a voluntary conservation program that helps agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems and adopt additional conservation activities to address priority resources concerns. Participants earn CSP payments for conservation performance ‐ the higher the performance, the higher the payment. Through CSP, participants take additional steps to improve the resource conditions on their land—including soil, air and habitat quality, water quality and quantity, and energy conservation. 

Visit our National NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program website

CSP program fact sheet (PDF, 1.4MB)


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 Activity Evaluation Tool (CAET) to determine whether or not the applicant is addressing resource concerns in order to meet the stewardship eligibility requirement.

Pennsylvania Statewide Ag Lands CAET

Pennsylvania Statewide Non-Industrial Private Forestland CAET

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 concerns at the time of contract offer.
  • At least one additional resource concern by the end of the conservation stewardship contract.

Additional restrictions and program requirements may apply.

How to Apply

NRCS will accept 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 Application NRCS-CPA-1200 dated January 2019 will be used:

     CSP application

     RCPP-CSP application: (When Available)

The application batching period for funding consideration in fiscal year 2019 will end on May 10, 2019.

CSP Conservation Activities

Applicants may adopt conservation activities (conservation practices, enhancements, or bundles) in order to meet or exceed a resource concern by the end of the conservation stewardship contract.

  • 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.

2018 CSP Enhancements
  (Please Note: The link to National CSP Website with section: 2018 CSP Enhancements (must select land use, then full enhancement activity link under Enhancement Description for the desired enhancement).

Pennsylvania FY19 Conservation Activity List (PDF, 206KB)

Participants must schedule, install and adopt at least one additional conservation activity on each land use type that is part of the operation. At least one conservation activity must be completed within the first 12 months of the contract.


2019 - Ranking Ag Lands (PDF, 446KB)

2019 - Ranking - Forestland (PDF, 447KB)

Eligible applications that meet the stewardship threshold eligibility requirements will be ranked using the Application, Evaluation, and Ranking Tool (AERT). 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.

The five targeted resource concerns for Ag Land selected for Pennsylvania are:  

  • Soil Erosion
  • Soil Quality Degradation
  • Water Quality Degradation
  • Air Quality Impacts
  • Livestock Production Limitation

The five targeted resource concerns for Non-Industrial Private Forest (NIPF) for Pennsylvania are:  

  • Soil Erosion
  • Water Quality Degradation
  • Air Quality Impacts
  • Degraded Plant Condition
  • Fish and Wildlife – Inadequate Habitat

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.

Annual payments will be made in accordance with the following formula:

(AxB) + (CxD)

Where —
A = the number of resource concerns met at the time of application
B = a standard rate that is the same for all resource concerns – For FY 19, this rate is $350.00
C = the acres in the land use
D = a standard rate that is determined for each land use

   FY 19 Land use rates:

Crop and Pastured Cropland       $7.50/acre
Pasture                                    $3.00/acre
Forest                                      $0.50/acre
Farmstead                                $7.50/acre
Associated Agricultural Land      $0.50/acre

Payment for conservation activities will be made in accordance with the FY19 Payment Schedule (PDF, 595KB).

Resource-Conserving Crop Rotation

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. Pennsylvania’s Resource-Conserving Crops (PDF, 312KB).

In any fiscal year that a contract’s payment amount total is less than the fiscal year’s minimum contract payment rate, the payment for the fiscal year will be the minimum contract payment rate. For FY19, the minimum contract payment rate is $1,500.

Payment Limit: Regardless of the number of contracts entered into under the program, a person or legal entity may not receive, directly or indirectly, payments that, in the aggregate, exceed $40,000 during any fiscal year for all conservation stewardship contracts entered into, and $200,000 under all conservation stewardship contracts entered into during fiscal years 2019 through 2023.

Program Contact

Ashley Lenig
Conservation Program Manager


Barry Frantz
Assistant State Conservationist for Programs