Conservation Security Program - Key Points
- The Conservation Security Program (CSP) is a voluntary conservation program that
supports ongoing stewardship of private agricultural lands by providing payments
and technical assistance for maintaining and enhancing natural resources. CSP
identifies and rewards those farmers and ranchers who are meeting the highest
standards of conservation and environmental management on their
operations as they address resource concerns.
- CSP was authorized by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (Farm
- CSP completes the portfolio of conservation programs. The
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Wildlife Habitat
Incentives Program (WHIP), and Agriculture Management Assistance
(AMA) are programs that help landowners with mostly remedial actions necessary to
improve the condition of the resources. The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection
Program (FRPP) and Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) are programs that protect
land from conversion. The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) and
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) are easement and retirement programs.
Combined with technical assistance, CSP completes the conservation portfolio.
- Farmers and ranchers may select from this portfolio of USDA conservation programs
and technical assistance to make the necessary natural resource improvements
on their operations to participate in CSP.
- CSP integrates the conservation success of our other programs to improve the
condition of America’s working lands and enhance natural resources for the public as
- CSP is open to producers who have practiced good stewardship on their
agricultural lands and additionally provides incentives for those who want to
- Examples of resource concerns are water quantity, water quality, soil erosion, soil
quality, air quality, animal management (both domestic and wildlife), and plant
- NRCS is emphasizing soil quality and water quality as nationally significant
resource concerns because of the potential for significant environmental benefits
from conservation treatment that improves their condition.
- Resources must be treated to a level that sustains the resource base as described in
the quality criteria level referred to in the NRCS Field Office Technical Guide
- CSP is available to owners and operators of private agricultural land, including
- A staged, watershed-based implementation is being used to operate CSP. NRCS used a watershed prioritization process to select 18
watersheds from across the Nation for the first CSP sign-up in FY-2004. In FY-
2005, CSP went nationwide and 202 watersheds were selected—at least one in
every state and the Caribbean area.
- Watersheds are nature’s boundaries. They are a common sense way to group together
producers working in related environmental areas. Implementing CSP
on a watershed basis will reflect the environmental progress we expect from
CSP in ways we couldn’t expect from working along county or state lines.
- Every farm and ranch is in a watershed.
- There were several criteria for selecting the watersheds to participate this year. The
- A wide variety of land uses (crops, rangeland, pasture,
vineyards/orchards) and input intensities.
- High-priority resource issues to be addressed, including issues that meet
their States priorities.
- A history of good land stewardship on the part of landowners.
- The availability of the technical tools necessary – such as digitized soils
information – to streamline program implementation.
- A watershed rotation reduces the administrative burden on applicants while
it reduces the technical assistance costs associated with NRCS and its technical
service providers processing a large number of applications that cannot be
- Only those producers who have a majority of their land in a selected watershed are
eligible to apply for CSP in that sign-up.
- USDA is committed to the vision of CSP as a nationwide conservation program
Other watersheds will be selected each year with the input of NRCS State
Conservationists, until landowners in every watershed have had a chance to
- Sign-up periods have been created in order to provide for a planned workflow for
program implementation and for ensuring that budget limits are not exceeded.
- Prior to each sign-up, the NRCS Chief will announce a number of enrollment
categories. All applications that meet the sign-up criteria will be placed in an
- Those categories will be funded in order until funding is exhausted.
- The enrollment categories will be defined consistent with a producer’s historic
conservation performance, by resource concerns, levels of conservation treatment,
and a producer’s willingness to achieve additional environmental performance.
- Other criteria, such as local conservation enhancement activities, limited resource
producer designation, nutrient management, pest management, and at-risk
species habitat creation and protection, may be used to further define
categories and sub-categories.
- By law, NRCS cannot incur technical assistance costs in excess of 15 percent of
the funds expended in that fiscal year for CSP. Given this modest service funding,
NRCS must focus and limit the land and landowners that its conservationists can
serve at one time. Watersheds provide that focus.
- NRCS will determine producer and land eligibility.
- To be eligible for CSP:
- The agricultural operation must be privately owned land or Tribal land,
the majority of which must be located within a selected watershed.
- The applicant must be in compliance with highly erodible and wetland
compliance provisions, have an active interest in the agricultural
operation, and have control of the land for the life of the contract.
- The applicant must share in the risk of producing any crop or livestock
and be entitled to a share in the crop or livestock marketed from the
- Applicants may submit only one application for each sign-up. Producers who
are participants in an existing conservation stewardship contract are not
eligible to submit another application.
- Private agricultural land and agricultural land under the
jurisdiction of an Indian Tribe, including cropland, grassland, prairie land,
improved pasture land, rangeland, and forested land that is an incidental part
of the agricultural operation, are eligible for enrollment in CSP.
- If a producer desires to move to a higher level of conservation
treatment, cost-share payments for some practices will be available through CSP, up to 50 percent of the cost of the new practice or up to 65 percent for
limited resource or beginning producers. CSP participants can take advantage
of financial assistance through other conservation programs, including EQIP,
WHIP and AMA. All needed practices and management must be in place before a
producer can move to the next payment level.
- Land enrolled in CRP, WRP, and GRP, and land converted to cropland
after the enactment of the CSP legislation is not eligible for the program.
- Eligible practices include land management and structural practices that
protect the resources, except animal waste management related structures or
- CSP has three levels of conservation treatment. There are certain
tier eligibility and contract requirements, as well:
- For Tier I, the producer must have addressed soil quality and
water quality to the described minimum level of treatment for eligible land
uses on part of the agricultural operation prior to acceptance.
- For Tier II, the producer must have addressed soil quality and
water quality to the described minimum level of treatment on all eligible land
uses on the entire agricultural operation prior to acceptance and agree to
address one additional resource by the end of the contract period.
- For Tier III, the producer must have addressed all applicable
resource concerns to a resource management system level that meets the FOTG
standards on all eligible land uses on the entire agricultural operation
before acceptance into the program and have riparian zones adequately treated.
- Producers can use other USDA programs and conservation technical
assistance, as well as any appropriate Federal, State, or private programs, to
arrive at the high level of stewardship necessary to participate in CSP.
- Other landowners can act now to make their operations more
competitive for later sign-ups. Steps include doing the self-assessment,
developing a conservation plan, and implementing the appropriate conservation
- To apply for CSP, a producer will:
- Access the CSP Self-Assessment Workbook either online or by picking up a
hard copy at the local USDA Service Center.
- Using the workbook, producers will:
- Determine whether they meet the basic eligibility requirements.
- Document their stewardship work, including conservation practices
installed on the farm or ranch by land use.
- Prepare a benchmark inventory documenting conservation treatments they
have undertaken so far.
- Gather necessary documentation of conservation actions.
- Schedule an interview and submit the completed workbook and CSP
application to the Service Center during the sign-up period.
- Meet with NRCS personnel to go over application and documentation to
determine if applicant is eligible.
- Then, NRCS determines the tier and enrollment category for which the
- Finally, NRCS selects the categories to be funded for CSP contracts and
makes the CSP payments.
- CSP provides for fair treatment for tenants, allowing a tenant to apply
for a contract and receive CSP payments on land meeting CSP standards as long
as the tenant controls the land.
- Each contract is tied to an agricultural operation. An agricultural
operation is defined as all agricultural land and other lands determined by
the NRCS Chief, whether contiguous or noncontiguous, under the control of the
participant and constituting a cohesive management unit, that is operated with
equipment, labor, accounting system, and management that is substantially
separate from any other. The smallest part of an agricultural operation that
could be offered for a Tier I contract is a field.
- CSP payments include:
- An annual stewardship component for the base level of conservation
- An annual existing practice component for the maintenance of existing
- An enhancement component for exceptional conservation effort and
additional conservation practices or activities that provide increased
resource benefits beyond the prescribed level.
- A one-time new practice component for additional needed practices.
- Payment limitations are:
- For Tier I, contracts are for 5 years; maximum payment is $20,000
- For Tier II, contracts are for 5 to 10 years; maximum payment is $35,000
- For Tier III, contracts are for 5 to 10 years; maximum payment is
- All three tiers include enhancement payments for exceptional conservation
effort and additional conservation practices or activities that provide
increased resource benefits beyond the prescribed level.
- In addition, three other types of enhancements may be available in any
sign-up: participation in an on-farm project, assessment or evaluation
activities, or cooperation among at least 75 percent of producers to implement
watershed or regional resource plans.
- Payments are made annually for the life of the contract.
- Payments will not be made for the purpose of maintaining practices
required for conservation compliance or where maintenance agreements already
- Contract payment calculations and limitations:
- Existing practice payments will be calculated as a flat rate of 25
percent of the stewardship payment.
- New practice payments will be made up to 50 percent cost-share rate or
up to 65 percent for limited resource and beginning producers, and are
limited to $10,000 cumulative total for the contract.
- Annual contract limits for 2005 enhancements will be:
- $13,750 for Tier I
- $21,875 for Tier II, and
- $28,125 for Tier III
- The variable rates for 2005 enhancements will be 150 percent for 2005,
90 percent for 2006, 70 percent for 2007, 50 percent for 2008, 30 percent
for 2009, 10 percent for 2010, and reduced to zero after 2010.
This information is available to download and requires
- Key Points (PDF; 64 KB)
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