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Home > Accessing the New Conservation Stewardship Program

Accessing the New Conservation Stewardship Program

By Jeff Schahczenski ~ NCAT Agricultural and Natural Resource Economist
with help from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
Published March 5, 2018


Attention!2018 Conservation Stewardship Program Funding Applications Process
ATTRA Can Help


Use this online form or give us a call at 1-800-346-9140 to submit questions on CSP to our Specialists.


Important Documents available for Download and Viewing:

PDF Icon NSAC's Farmers' Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program, which was updated last year to reflect the latest enrollment guidance and includes key definitions, explanations of the ranking and payment system, and helpful hints for accessing the program.

PDF Icon NSAC's CSP-information-alert: 2018 sign-up, step-by-step process of signing-up for CSP.

ATTRA's Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming which is an overview of all federal conservation programs, including CSP.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that farmers and ranchers have until March 2, 2018 to submit an initial FY 2018 application for the nation's largest working lands program, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Over 72 million acres across the country—roughly 8 percent of all agricultural land—are currently enrolled in whole-farm conservation contracts. The significant amount of working lands already enrolled in CSP, and the fact that in recent years CSP has had to turn away as many as 75 percent of qualified applicants, is evidence of the voluntary conservation program's enormous popularity.

CSP's ability to enroll qualified farmers is largely contingent on available federal funds. The 2014 Farm Bill reduced CSP's annual enrollment from 12.8 million acres to 10 million acres, which resulted in thousands of qualified farmers being turned away from the program. Funds for CSP and other farm bill conservation programs have also been regularly raided through the annual appropriations process.

Through the 2018 sign-up period, NRCS will enroll an additional 10 million acres of cropland, pastureland, rangeland, and forestland in CSP. Interested farmers and ranchers must submit their applications by March 2, 2018 in order to be considered for this year's sign up. Current participants whose initial contracts are set to expire at the end of the year will also have the opportunity to renew their contracts for an additional 5-year period; USDA will announce a separate deadline for renewals in the coming weeks.

The 2018 sign-up window is a critical opportunity for producers across the country to build their environmental and economic resiliency through comprehensive conservation efforts."

The initial step to apply for CSP is easy, and interested producers should act quickly to ensure consideration in this year's signup. To apply, farmers and ranchers can go to their local NRCS office and submit the initial application materials a simple form that asks for basic information regarding land ownership, type of production, and contact information. Once the initial application is accepted by NRCS, producers are then scored based on current and planned future conservation activities. If applicants meet acceptable conservation levels, they become eligible to compete in a ranking process that determines who will receive contracts. NRCS works down through the list of eligible applicants until acreage allocated to the particular state for that particular year runs out. Information about application can also be found on NRCS website at: Apply for CSP 2018.

While applicants can apply for CSP anytime throughout the year, NSAC urges interested producers to submit applications before the March deadline to ensure that they are considered for enrollment in FY 2018.

The 2018 CSP sign-up is especially significant because it is the final enrollment opportunity under the authority provided by the 2014 Farm Bill, which is set to expire September 30th of this year.

In addition call the ATTRA toll free hot-line number at 1-800-346-9140 (English) and 1-800-411-3222 (Spanish) if you need any additional help or further information about accessing this program.

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This page was last updated on: March 5, 2018