U.S. Code of Federal Regulations
Regulations most recently checked for updates: Oct 07, 2022
(a) In general - To be eligible to participate in CSP:
(1) Applicants must meet the requirements for eligible applicants, including any additional eligibility criteria and contract requirements that may be included in a CSP sign-up notice pursuant to § 1469.6(c);
(2) Land must meet the definition of eligible land; and
(3) The application must meet the conservation standards established pursuant to this section.
(b) Applicants may submit only one application for each sign-up. Producers who are participants in an existing conservation stewardship contract are not eligible to submit another application.
(c) Eligible applicants. To be eligible to participate, an applicant must -
(1) Be in compliance with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation provisions found in 7 CFR Part 12;
(2) Have control of the land for the life of the proposed contract period.
(i) The Chief may make an exception for land allotted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Tribal land, or other instances in which the Chief determines that there is sufficient assurance of control; and
(ii) If the applicant is a tenant, the applicant must provide NRCS with the written evidence or assurance of control from the landowner;
(3) Share in risk of producing any crop or livestock and be entitled to share in the crop or livestock available for marketing from the agricultural operation (landlords and owners are ineligible to submit an application for exclusively cash rented agricultural operations);
(4) Complete a benchmark condition inventory for the entire agricultural operation or the portion being enrolled in accordance with § 1469.7(a); and
(5) Supply information, as required by NRCS, to determine eligibility for the program, including but not limited to information related to eligibility criteria in the sign-up notice, and information to verify the applicant's status as a beginning or a limited resource farmer or rancher.
(d) Eligible land:
(1) To be eligible for enrollment in CSP, land must be:
(i) Private agricultural land;
(ii) Private non-industrial forested land that is an incidental part of the agricultural operation;
(iii) Agricultural land that is Tribal, allotted, or Indian trust land;
(iv) Other incidental parcels, as determined by NRCS, which may include, but are not limited to, land within the bounds of working agricultural land or small adjacent areas (such as center pivot corners, field borders, linear practices, turn rows, intermingled small wet areas or riparian areas); or
(v) Other land on which NRCS determines that conservation treatment will contribute to an improvement in an identified natural resource concern, including areas outside the boundary of the agricultural land such as farmsteads, ranch sites, barnyards, feedlots, equipment storage areas, material handling facilities, and other such developed areas. Other land must be treated in Tier III contracts; and
(vi) A majority of the agricultural operation must be within a watershed selected for sign-up.
(2) The following land is not eligible for enrollment in CSP:
(i) Land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program;
(ii) Land enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program;
(iii) Land enrolled in the Grassland Reserve Program;
(iv) Public land including land owned by a Federal, State or local unit of government;
(v) Land referred to in paragraphs (d)(2)(i), (ii) (iii) and (iv) of this section may not receive CSP payments, but the conservation work on this land may be used to determine if an applicant meets the minimum level of treatment on the eligible land and may be described in the conservation stewardship plan.
(3) The following land is not eligible for any payment component in CSP: Land that is used for crop production after May 13, 2002, that had not been planted, considered to be planted, or devoted to crop production, as determined by NRCS, for at least 4 of the 6 years preceding May 13, 2002.
(4) Delineation of the agricultural operation.
(i) The applicant will delineate the agricultural operation to include all agricultural lands, other incidental parcels identified in paragraph (d)(1)(iv) of this section, and other lands, identified in paragraph (d)(1)(v) of this section under the control of the applicant and constituting a cohesive management unit, and is operated with equipment, labor, accounting system, and management that is substantially separate from any other land.
(ii) In delineating the agricultural operation, USDA farm boundaries may be used. If farm boundaries are used in the application, the entire farm area must be included within the delineation. An applicant may offer one farm or aggregate farms into one agricultural operation and any other additional eligible land not within a farm boundary.
(e) Conservation standards - (1) Minimum tier eligibility requirements:
(i) An applicant is eligible to participate in CSP Tier I only if the benchmark condition inventory demonstrates to the satisfaction of NRCS that the applicant has addressed the nationally significant resource concerns of Water Quality and Soil Quality to the minimum level of treatment as specified in paragraphs (e)(2) and (3) of this section on part of the eligible land uses within the agricultural operation. Only the acreage meeting such requirements is eligible for stewardship and existing practice payments in CSP.
(ii) An applicant is eligible to participate in CSP Tier II only if the benchmark condition inventory demonstrates to the satisfaction of NRCS that the applicant has addressed the nationally significant resource concerns of water quality and soil quality to the minimum level of treatment as specified in paragraphs (e)(2) and (3) of this section for all eligible land uses on the entire agricultural operation. Under Tier II, the entire agricultural operation must be enrolled in CSP.
(iii) An applicant is eligible to participate in CSP Tier III only if the benchmark condition inventory demonstrates to the satisfaction of NRCS that the applicant has addressed all of the applicable resource concerns to the minimum level of treatment as specified in paragraph (e)(4) of this section for all eligible land uses on the entire agricultural operation. Practices or activities shall not be required for participation in the program unless they would have an ultimate conservation benefit as demonstrated by the Conservation Practice Physical Effects matrix in the FOTG. Under Tier III, the entire agricultural operation is enrolled in CSP including other land as defined in § 1469.5(d)(1)(v).
(2) The minimum level of treatment on cropland for Tier I and Tier II:
(i) The minimum level of treatment for soil quality on cropland is considered achieved when the Soil Conditioning Index value is positive.
(ii) The minimum level of treatment for water quality on cropland is considered achieved if the benchmark inventory indicates that the current level of treatment addresses the risks that nutrients, pesticides, sediment, and salinity present to water quality by meeting or exceeding the quality criteria for the specific resource concerns of nutrients, pesticides, sediment and salinity for surface water and nutrients, pesticides and salinity for ground water.
(iii) The Chief may make minor exceptions to criteria for areas, such as tropical and tundra regions, where technology tools are being refined or testing is needed to review performance data.
(3) The minimum level of treatment on pastureland and rangelands for Tier I and Tier II is vegetation and animal management accomplished by following a grazing management plan that provides for:
(i) A forage-animal balance;
(ii) Proper livestock distribution;
(iii) Timing of use; and
(iv) Managing livestock access to water courses.
(4) The minimum level of treatment for Tier III:
(i) The minimum level of treatment for Tier III is having a fully implemented resource management system that meets the quality criteria for the local NRCS FOTG for all applicable resource concerns and considerations with the following exceptions:
(A) The minimum requirement for soil quality on cropland is considered achieved when the Soil Conditioning Index value is positive;
(B) The minimum requirement for water quantity - irrigation water management on cropland or pastureland is considered achieved when the current level of treatment and management for the system results in a water use index value of at least 50; and
(C) The minimum requirement for wildlife is considered achieved when the current level of treatment and management for the system results in an index value of at least 0.5 using a general or species specific habitat assessment guide; and
(ii) All riparian corridors, including streams and natural drainages, within the agricultural operation are buffered to restore, protect, or enhance riparian resources. Riparian corridors, as appropriate, will be managed or designed to intercept sediment, nutrients, pesticides, and other materials in surface runoff; reduce nutrients and other pollutants in shallow subsurface water flow; lower water temperature; and provide litter fall or structural components for habitat complexity or to slow out-of-bank floods.
(5) In the instance of a significant natural event, such as drought, wildfire, pestilence, or flooding which would prevent the participant or applicant from achieving the minimum requirements, those requirements will be considered met so long as the participant or applicant can provide documentation of their stewardship prior to such an event.