Sign up now for the Conservation Stewardship Program

We’d like to let you know about an open funding opportunity for conservation. The signup process for the updated Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is now open and applications are being accepted.

Your initial application is due Feb. 3, 2017. To enroll in the 2017 program, submit an application to the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) by Feb. 3. For this application, you don’t have to know all of the details about the conservation practices that will be the best fit for you and your operation. Those details are worked out with NRCS later on the process.  

The form for the initial application is here, and you can find your local NRCS office here. You can also call us here at the Center for Rural Affairs with questions: contact us at or 515.329.0172.

We will also publish information on re-enrollment for farmers and ranchers who want to renew their CSP contracts. Watch our website for more information.

What’s new this year?

NRCS rolled out some changes to CSP this year:

  • New eligibility tool – the Conservation Activity Evaluation Tool (CAET)
  • New ranking tool – the Application, Evaluation and Ranking Tool (AERT)
  • Minimum contract payment information
  • New added flexibility for mid-contract changes
  • Expanded options for enhancements, practices and bundles
  • Redesigned payment structure

Want more detailed information on these changes and on how and why to enroll in CSP? Check out this Information Alert and an updated Farmers’ Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program, both published by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Although CSP is a national program, it is tailored at the state and local levels to address regional conservation concerns. For farmers and ranchers in Iowa who are interested in learning more about how the program works in your state, you can check out this recent farminar hosted by our friends at the Practical Farmers of Iowa.  

What is CSP and why does it matter?

Paul Ackley, in Taylor County, Iowa, found that enrolling in CSP was very helpful in allowing him to implement conservation practices he’d been eyeing.

“A lot of people haven’t seen soil right out of sod - it’s really different, it’s got life in it,” Paul said.

He’d noticed on the land he was farming, land he both rented and owned, the soil was looking tired after several years of cropping - his beans would even turn white in certain places where the soil was particularly depleted.

Enrolling in CSP was a good solution. The program is designed to reward farmers and ranchers for using conservation practices on their land. It provides comprehensive conservation assistance to whole farms. Farmers and ranchers can receive payments for practices like planting cover crops, installing buffer strips or starting rotational grazing.

With payments from CSP, Paul added soft red winter wheat to his corn-soy rotation, and the soil started looking healthier. He also applied for CSP on some of his grazing land and started doing rotational grazing. Now his pastures are more diverse and he has more warm season grasses.

“I’m really happy with the program,” he told us. “It’s a way to re-build the soil and reduce fuel use.”

CSP is administered by United States Department of Agriculture NRCS. Since the program began in 2009, nearly 70 million acres of farm and ranch land have been enrolled in the program. To learn more about how you can enroll in CSP, visit your local Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) office.

We want to hear from you! Please share your questions about and experiences with CSP with us by contacting or 515.329.0172.