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Conservation Stewardship Program

File A1-40
Updated August, 2010

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Farm operators are reminded that Sept. 30 is the final day to notify NRCS that they intend to apply for the new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). CSP is a continuous sign-up program but Sept. 30, 2009 is the deadline for the first ranking to determine eligibility for payments.

The CSP is a new program in the 2008 Farm Bill. It replaces the Conservation Security Program. The acronyms for the two programs are the same but the programs are entirely different. The new program is available state wide and will offer payments to farm operators based on additional conservation measures they adopt for at least five years.

Under the new CSP the operator works with an NRCS conservationist and discusses the conservation practices they currently use and the ones they intend to adopt. The current practices determine eligibility for CSP and they count in the final ranking for the operator.

The practices considered are those that affect the primary resources of concern for Iowa. These resources are water quality, air quality, soil quality, and animals. The list of practices includes such things as injecting or incorporating manure, dust control on unpaved roads, extending existing filter strips, recycling farm lubricants, and going to no-till. There are many other practices for cropland, pasture and forest.

The NRCS conservationist and the operator go through the practices using the Conservation Measurement Tool developed by NRCS.  The operator must meet a minimum conservation standard to be eligible; and they must be adding new conservation practices.  After evaluating the existing practices and the proposed new practices, the operator will be assigned a point total based on these practices. The operators are ranked on the basis of their point total and the operators with the highest number of points will be eligible for the per acre payments.

Currently we do not know the exact payment per acre. However, NRCS has estimated nationwide that payments will be somewhere between $12 and $22 per acre.  A payment close to $16 per acre will be the most likely outcome. 
There are a few things an individual producer should remember when considering CSP.

  • The contracts are for five years. 
  • All of owned and operated land must be included. 
  • If rented land is to be considered as part of the operation, the producer must show proof of control for at least five years. 
  • Payments are based only on acres considered part of the operation. 

There can be no double payments for existing land under a conservation payment program. For example, land in CRP, WRP or EQIP would not be eligible for a CSP payment.

There has to be at least some new conservation practices added. Existing practices will be factored into the ranking and will affect the operator’s payment The final ranking for the various practices has not been determined, but, the operator is required to notify NRCS they would like to apply for the program by Sept. 30. This is the cutoff date to be considered in the first ranking. The operator will be notified when the ranking has been completed and when they should schedule an appointment with the NRCS conservationist. 

NRCS has developed a self-screening checklist for operators to determine if the Conservation Stewardship Program is a good program for them.  All producers should complete the checklist.  This is a good tool to help them decide if they are eligible and should pursue the CSP program. The checklist and other information about the Conservation Stewardship Program is available at the NRCS county offices or on line at:

In addition to the annual payments there is a special provision in CSP for the operator to receive a one-time payment for a resource conserving crop rotation. A resource conserving rotation must be at least three years and include a high residue crop, a cover crop or some type of perennial grass for at least one-third of the acres. This rotation must be new to the operation.  CSP will provide an additional payment to the operator for adopting this rotation.

For more information on the CSP an operator should visit the NRCS Web site or the local NRCS office. Be sure to remember that Sept. 30, 2009 is the deadline to let NRCS know of operator intent to apply. This will be the application, the interview with the NRCS conservationist will be scheduled for a later date.


Michael D. Duffy, retired economist. Questions?