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Natural Resources Conservation Service Increases Minimum Conservation Stewardship Program Payment to $4,000 per Contract; Apply by April 26

by Guest Blogger |

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps you build on your existing conservation efforts while strengthening your operation.

Whether you are looking to improve grazing conditions, increase crop resiliency, or develop wildlife habitat, NRCS can custom design a CSP plan to help you meet those goals. NRCS can help you identify natural resource problems in your operation and provide technical and financial assistance to solve those problems in an environmentally beneficial and cost-effective manner.

Note that USDA is increasing the minimum annual payment for new and renewed contracts for agricultural producers participating in the CSP from $1,500 to $4,000 starting in fiscal year 2024. CSP applications are due in California by April 26. Deadlines may vary by state; find your local NRCS office online for information that applies to you.

How it Works

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.

NRCS works one-on-one with producers to develop a conservation plan based on management objectives for your operation that outlines and enhances existing efforts, using new conservation practices or activities. Producers implement practices and activities in their conservation plan that expands on the benefits of cleaner water and air, healthier soil, and better wildlife habitat, all while improving their agricultural operations.

For example, if you have been planting a cover crop, you may decide to try an enhancement for a multispecies cover crop or implement a deep-rooted cover crop to break up soil compaction and further improve the health of your soil.

CSP offers annual payments for implementing these practices on your land and operating and maintaining existing conservation efforts. Want to take it a step further? CSP also offers bundles where you can select a suite of enhancements and receive a higher payment rate.


CSP is for working lands and is the largest conservation program in the United States. Thousands of people voluntarily enroll in the program because it helps them enhance natural resources and improve their business operation.

CSP participants are seeing real results. Some of these benefits include

  • enhanced resiliency to weather and market volatility,
  • decreased need for agricultural inputs, and
  • improved wildlife habitat conditions.

Conservation at Work Videos

You can watch how farmers and ranchers across the country are implementing CSP and other conservation activities in the NRCS Conservation at Work video series. For example, see how producers are using the cover crops to improve soil health and water efficiency, reduce use of fertilizer, and improve pest control.

CSP Contracts

The program represents a genuine commitment to conservation: CSP contracts are for five years, with the opportunity to compete for a contract renewal if you successfully fulfill the initial contract and agree to achieve additional conservation objectives. An NRCS conservation planner will work closely with you throughout the entire contract process.

Contract payments are based on two components:

  1. Payments to maintain the existing level of conservation, based on the land uses included in the contract and an NRCS assessment of existing stewardship at the time of enrollment
  2. Payments to implement additional conservation activities

Most participants will be eligible for a $4,000 minimum payment during any year that their total annual contract payment falls below the minimum payment amount.

CSP Renewals

Existing CSP participants may be eligible to renew their contracts for an additional five-year term during the fifth year of their initial contract. Participants who have met the terms of their initial contract and who agree to implement more conservation activities can compete for a renewal contract. To meet the renewal stewardship threshold, the participant must agree to meet or exceed two additional priority resource concerns or to adopt or improve conservation activities to achieve higher levels of conservation for two existing priority resource concerns.

Technical Assistance

NRCS offers technical assistance at no cost. Producers can use NRCS’s personalized advice and information, based on the latest science and research, to make informed decisions about their land.
Technical Service Providers (TSP) can help producers plan, design, and implement conservation practices or develop conservation activity plans to improve their agricultural operations. For more information on the Technical Service Provider program and to find a local TSP, visit the TSP page.

Technical assistance is also offered through the NRCS Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) program.

How To Get Started

The first step in the process is to notify NRCS of your interest in CSP. Then a conservation planner will schedule a visit to your property. During that visit, they will walk the land with you to discuss and review any resource concerns. Following the site visit, the planner will develop a conservation plan that includes a variety of practices, activities, and enhancements to improve the level of conservation benefit and to address the resource concerns.

Applications for NRCS conservation programs are accepted on a continuous basis. However, application ranking dates are set at key times throughout the year.

The steps to apply are as follows:

For more information on CSP enhancements and bundles, please visit NRCS’s Enhancements and Bundles page. You can also read a CSP Fact Sheet online.


Text adapted from an NRCS webpage accessed April 10, 2024.

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