The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is a voluntary program offered to private landowners. It enhances the conservation practices on their property, increasing efficiency and productivity. It is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).
Type of lands that qualify: Cropland, grassland, wetland, forestland
Type of program: Maintenance and incentive
Monetary benefit: Direct payment
How It Works
The CSP offers enhancements to conservation practices conducted on cropland, associated agricultural land, grazing land, farmstead, and forestland. These conservation practices can help increase or promote soil and plant health, water quality, livestock production, crop production, forest products, and wildlife habitat.
Within the CSP, there are over 200 conservation practice enhancements that landowners can choose from to build a conservation plan. A complete list of available conservation practices and bundles can be obtained on the NRCS website.
To be eligible for the CSP, producers and landowners must have numbers and records for their farm or land operation on file with the Farm Service Agency (FSA).
CSP contracts are valid for a total of 5 years. Since the CSP is an incentive-based program, there are different scenarios for payment, and payments will be made annually over the life of the contract.
All CSP contracts will have an annual payment of at least $1,500; the total contract amount and payments will vary based on resource concerns met and enhancements established. The NRCS offers three activity payment options.
Existing Activity Payments
These payments provide financial incentives for current conservation practices and resource concerns presently being met.
Additional Activity Payments
These payments are for enhancements added to existing conservation regimens or new resource concerns being met.
These payments are intended to adopt any new or improved conservation crop rotation to their CSP contract along with existing and additional activities.
|Enhancement or PC||Name||Payment|
|E315A||Herbaceous weed treatment||$14.39/acre|
|E327B||Establish monarch butterfly habitat||$827.31/acre|
|E612D||Adding food producing species||$198.40/acre|
|E612G||Tree/shrub planting for wildlife foods||$1,817.49/acre|
|E666A||Forest soil quality||$36.76/acre|
|E666D||Understory vegetation management||$246.32/acre|
|E666H||Increase carbon storage||$11.33/acre|
|E666I||Crop tree mast production MGT||$363.79/acre|
|E666K||Creating patch openings||$489.14/acre|
|E666O||Den and snags||$50.56/acre|
How to Apply
Applications are currently being accepted for continuous sign-up at your local USDA Service Center. Contact your local NRCS office for deadlines in your state.
A landowner has 1,131.5 forested acres in southwest Mississippi. They would like to improve wildlife habitat and conserve soil and water on this land. NRCS will provide cost-share payments annually for a period of 5 years based on the individual practices that the landowner chooses to apply.
The total contract payment for this property is $199,999.00 with an average annual payment of approximately $40,000.00. The approved practices include daylighting roads, creating patch-cut openings, group plantings of mast producing trees, maintaining soil quality and testing, forest stand improvements by hack and squirt, hinge cutting, mast tree and crop tree maintenance, bat habitat, dead snag retention, and carbon storage.
Based on the above practices, the average Annual Payment to Landowner is $35.35 per acre.
Average Annual Payment to Landowner: $35.35/Acre × 1,131.5 acres = $39,998.53
Average Annual Costs to Landowner are as follows:
Forestry Mulching, Tree Planting, Herbicide, Soil Tests, Misc. $10.95/acre × 1,131.5 acres = $12,400.00
Average Annual Net Financial Gain to Landowner
$35.35/acre – $10.95/acre = $24.39/acre
$24.39/acre × 1,131.5 acres = $27,600.00
Full 5 Year Contract Net Gain to Landowner
$27,600/year × 5 years = $138,000.00
How are CSP Payments Taxed?
CSP payments are taxed at the ordinary income rate; however, if the expenses equal or exceed the revenue from the program, no tax is paid. In the above example, after expenses, the landowner would pay ordinary income taxes on the annual net gain, or on $27,600.00.