Conservation Stewardship Program

Rewarding farmers and ranchers for the environmental benefits that they produce.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) launched the new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) on August 10, 2009. CSP provides payments to agricultural producers for conservation practices that reduce soil erosion, improve soil fertility, conserve energy, enhance wildlife and pollinator habitat, and improve water quality.

What’s Unique about CSP?

Rewards Existing Conservation

The new CSP provides incentive payments to agricultural producers for conservation practices that are already in place on the farm. With other USDA conservation programs, such as EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), farmers only receive payments for additional conservation activities, not those in already in place. Farmers that have been doing good conservation on their working land for years, but haven’t qualified for other programs, now can be rewarded for their dedicated land stewardship. Not only do farmers receive a higher payment for existing conservation, but CSP assists with the expensive maintenance of these activities.

Rewards New Conservation

New conservation practices on the farm are expensive and often have a long payback period. There are numerous practices that are rewarded under CSP, and farmers can choose new conservation activities that they would like to implement over the five year CSP contract on their farm. To access the CSP activity list click here.

Continuous Sign-up

Unlike other programs that have a short sign-up period once a year, CSP is a continuous sign-up program that allows farmers to enroll in the program at any time throughout the year. For 2012, the first cut-off date for ranking applicants was January 27, but if a farmer missed that ranking period, they will be automatically entered into the next ranking period. All working, agricultural land throughout Illinois is eligible.

Includes Owned or Rented Land

CSP contracts are for five years and include the whole farm operation, whether it’s owned or rented. If cash rented, proof that the land will be farmed by the farm operator during the contract period is required. If the rented land cannot be secured for the entire contract period, that does not disqualify the whole farm operation. Only that piece of land will not be included in the contracted acreage.

For Working Land

CSP only includes working land that is in production. Land that has been fallow or out of production for the past two years is not eligible. Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, prairie, improved pastureland, rangeland, non-industrial private forestland – a new land use for the program – and agricultural land. CSP does not prevent farmers or ranchers from receiving other farm program payments, although lands currently enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, or the old Conservation Security Program are ineligible for the program until those existing program contracts conclude.

Program Funding

Successful farmers will receive five-year contracts and up to $200,000 in benefits over the five year contract period for each farm.

How do Farmers Apply?

The first step to enrolling in CSP is to determine your eligibility. Click here for a Producer Self-Screening Checklist. If you think that CSP may be right for you, contact your local NRCS district office. For a list of NRCS service centers in Illinois, click here. For a CSP Application, click here. Visit the USDA NRCS CSP site here for complete program details.

For any CSP related questions contact:
Jennifer Filipiak, Illinois Stewardship Alliance Conservation Associate