by Anna Johnson, policy manager, Center for Rural Affairs

NATIONAL – Changes are coming to the nation’s largest conservation program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking public comments on a new rule.

On Nov. 12, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced changes to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which offers farmers and ranchers a valuable opportunity to build on and increase conservation on their operations.

The 2018 farm bill made a variety of changes to CSP, and this rule is the process where the USDA puts them into action. The changes include:

-Increasing payment rates for adoption of cover crops.

-Introducing a new supplemental payment for advanced grazing management.

-Creating one-time payment for developing a comprehensive conservation plan.

-Increasing emphasis on soil health.

In terms of participating land, CSP is the nation’s largest conservation program. CSP is available in all 50 states and the Pacific and Caribbean areas. Farmers and ranchers can apply anytime through a local NRCS office. In 2020, the USDA’s NRCS is expected to make $750 million available for CSP enrollment.

The Center for Rural Affairs encourages the public to let their voices be heard by offering comments on the CSP rule. Comments are due to NRCS by Jan. 13, and must be submitted electronically through If you are interested in submitting a comment and need assistance, please contact us.

Additionally, CSP is open for new sign-ups. We encourage farmers and ranchers interested in augmenting their existing conservation activities to apply to participate in CSP. Contact your local NRCS office to learn more.