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Conservation Stewardship Program

Conservation Stewardship Program

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, increases 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

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.

Conservation Activities

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.
     
  • 2020 CSP Activity List - enhancement, practices, and bundles (PDF; 500 KB) 

Eligibility

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

  • 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.

PIA NRCS CSP 2020 Stewardship Evaluation Questions by Land Use

  • Annual/Mixed Crop Questions 
  • Perennial Crop Questions
  • Pasture Questions 
  • Range Questions 
  • Forest Questions
  • Associated Ag Land Questions 
  • Farmstead Questions 

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.

Apply for CSP

How do I apply?
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.

The application batching period for funding consideration in fiscal year 2020 will end on May 29, 2020. 

Application Ranking
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.
  • 2020 - Ranking Ag Lands
  • 2020 - Ranking - NIPF  

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

  • Sheet and rill erosion
  • Organic matter depletion
  • Pathogens and chemicals from manure, biosolids, or compost applications transported to surface water
  • Plant productivity and health
  • Inadequate livestock water quantity, quality and distribution

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

  • Organic matter depletion
  • Sediment transported to surface water
  • Plant structure and composition
  • Plant pest pressure
  • Terrestrial habitat for wildlife and invertebrates

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.
  • Payment for conservation activities will be made in accordance with the FY20 Payment Schedule.

Payment Limit: 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.


​Contact

Chad Cherefko
Assistant Director for Programs
Phone: (808) 600-2959
Email: Chad.Cherefko@usda.gov