Program Description:

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) payments reward producers for:

  1. Improving, maintaining and managing existing conservation practices,
  2. Installing and adopting additional conservation practices,
  3. Adopting resource-conserving and other beneficial crop rotations,
  4. Conducting on-farm conservation research and demonstration activities and pilot-testing new technologies or innovation conservation practices.

Participants must agree to implement an approved stewardship plan and to maintain conditions to at least the same level that exited at the time of application. Participants also agree to adopt at least one additional activity in the first year of the contract and any additional activities by the third year of the contract according to the plan.

Landowner Eligibility:

Participants must:

  1. Be the registered operator and have reasonable assurance of control of the land for the length of the contract period,
  2. Be in compliance with HIghly Erodible Land, Wetland Conservation and make less than $1,000,000 adjusted gross income from non-farm income,
  3. Already be adequately addressing at least one resource concern such as soil, water or wildlife to a good stewardship level,
  4. Address at least one additional priority resource concern to a good stewardship level by the end of the conservation stewardship contract.

Land Eligibility:

Lands must:

  1. Constitute the entire agricultural operation, whether or not it is contiguous, owned or rented,
  2. Be private cropland, grassland, prairie land, improved pastureland, rangeland, non-industrial forest land or agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe or other incidental land on which agricultural resource concerns could be addressed
  3. Have been in crop production for four of the six years prior to June 18, 2008, to qualify as crop land (as opposed to pasture, range or forest land).

Land enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), and former Conservation Security Program (CSP) are not eligible for enrollment. However, a participant may count acres enrolled in WRP, GRP, or CRP as part of the entire agricultural operation to qualify for CSP. A participant may also remove acreage from a CSP contract to place it in WRP, GRP, or CRP.

Contract Length:

5 years

Cost-Share/Payment Information:

CSP awards participants annually for establishing and adopting conservation activities and for managing and improving existing activities.

Annual payments are based on:

  1. Cost incurred by implementing the activities, including planning, design, materials, equipment, installation, labor, management, maintenance, and training
  2. Income forfeited by the producer
  3. Expected environmental benefits

Annual payments are not calculated in the traditional ways such as percentage of cost or per-acre rate. Instead, a unique rate is calculated for each producer using the NRCS Conservation Management Tool, which calculates performance points for existing conservation activities (baseline inventory) and additional points for new practices or "enhancements" committed to for the contract period, such as hay harvesting, silvopasture, creating shallow-water habitat, patch-burning to improve habitat, establishing wildlife corridors and restoring prairie. Total performance points, total acreage and NRCS-caluclated land-use payments are used to determine the annual payments:

Annual CSP Payment = Total Land-use Acres x Total Performance Points x Land-use Payment Rate

The national average payment to participants is $18/acre. Through five-year contracts, NRCS makes payments as soon as practical after October 1 of each fiscal year for contract activities installed and maintained in the previous year.

Signup Information

Available nationwide


NRCS ranks all applications according to total points received and allocates funds, starting from the top-ranking proposals, until the state's allotted acreage enrollment is reached. The ranking system is based on how much farmers and ranchers have already done and how much more they are willing to do to address natural resource concerns. Ranking pools are established for each identified geographic area and applicants compete for funding against others facing similar resource challenges. Separate ranking pools are also established for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and 5% of allocated acres are set aside for each of these groups. Landowners who also wish to enroll forest land must submit a separate application, which will also be ranked separately.

The primary ranking factors are:

  1. Baseline level of conservation on the ground at the time of the application
  2. How much the proposed conservation activities increase conservation performance over the baseline
  3. Number of priority resource concerns to be addressed
  4. Extent to which other resource concerns will be addressed
  5. The cost-effectiveness of achieving environmental benefits relative to similar beneficial contracts