USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CStP) is a voluntary conservation program administered by US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The program’s mission is to assist agricultural producers in maintaining and enhancing their existing conservation efforts, especially in relation to Texas’ program priorities: water quantity, soil erosion, and plant health and condition. The theme for CStP is “payment for performance“.
Eligible lands include privately owned and Tribal agricultural lands, croplands, pasturelands, rangelands, grasslands, and nonindustrial private forest land. This includes other private agricultural land such as marshes, cropped woodland, and agricultural land used for livestock as long as a resource concern related to agricultural production could be addressed.
All producers are eligible for CStP regardless of watershed, state, county, or size of operation. The entire farming operation must be enrolled in the CStP program.
Those enrolled in the CStP earn payments for conservation performance. High quality of conservation results in higher payments for good stewardship. CStP contracts extend over 5-year and include two types of payments:
- Annual land management payments for installing new conservation practices and maintaining existing ones
- Supplemental payments for adopting a resource-conserving crop rotation
Renewal of contracts is possible after the 5-year period has expired. Payments are made as soon as practical after October 1st.
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CStP) began as the Conservation Security Program (CSP) in the 2002 Farm Bill. CSP originally targeted only 18 specific watersheds for conservation action and expanded to agricultural lands in 202 watersheds in 2005. According to the USDA Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act report, in 2012 alone, over 1.1 million acres of land was enrolled in CStP in Texas.
- Applications for CStP are accepted at the local USDA service center on a continuous basis. Applications are weighed on a competitive scale focused on state priorities.
- NRCS offers a CStP Self-Screening Checklist for landowners to assess whether the program is right for them