News Release: Get a Return on Your Conservation Investment with CSP

Get a Return on Your Conservation Investment with CSP

Julie Hawkins


RICHMOND, Va., February 3, 2020 – Those who work the land can tell you that farming isn’t for the faint of heart. Good stewardship offers a whole new set of challenges. The rare breed of land managers with commitment and vision to take those activities to a higher level can find a partner in USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

People like William Godsey, who operates a family farm in Nickelsville, Va., have made the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) part of their personal success stories. Godsey runs a beef cattle operation with his brother Tommy and has 17 enhancements installed or completed through four CSP contacts. “If you implement the practices with the help of the NRCS,” he says. “You’re going to see a difference in the quality of the forage for the cattle to graze.”

Across the state in Middlesex County, Andrew Kirby and his grandson Jacob have benefitted from working with NRCS to achieve their vision for the land. The multi-species cover crop practice now available in CSP gives them the option to put acres under contract for a longer period of time. Their management style also works well with CSP because they take the time to successfully establish their cover crops, which are some of the best in the area.

“Any time you raise a cover crop and put it back in, you’re not taking something away, you’re leaving it there … like putting money in the bank,” says Andrew Kirby.

CSP allows agricultural producers and forest landowners to earn payments for actively managing, maintaining and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, enhanced nutrient management, buffer strips and pollinator habitat – all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land.

Matt Dowdy and his wife Jessica own about 550 mostly contiguous wooded acres in Louisa County. CSP helped make Matt’s dream of a “forester’s playground” a reality.

“CSP makes me feel more like I’m guiding the process and implementing my plan with NRCS assistance and help,” says the Louisa County forester. “That is a huge difference, as it is our vision and not someone else’s.”

Each of these individuals believes success is a journey, not a destination, and has employed CSP to build their business while implementing conservation practices to enhance the sustainability of the entire operation. Changes in the 2018 Farm Bill now make the program an even better option for Virginia farmers.

The new CSP provides specific support for organic operations and those transitioning to organic production as well as offering several new incentives* to include:

  • Increasing payment rates for adoption of cover crops and resource-conserving crop and grazing rotations.
  • Introducing a new supplemental payment for advanced grazing management.
  • Creating one-time payment for developing a comprehensive conservation plan.

“CSP is our ‘pay-for-performance’ program offering farmers reliable economic returns for their conservation investments,” said State Conservationist Jack Bricker. “We’ve now restructured this offering to increase the efficiency of program delivery and reduce the burden on producers.”

NRCS now bases contracts on funds instead of acres, bringing CSP in line with the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The agency has also aligned CSP with EQIP through common applications, contracting operations, conservation planning, conservation practices and related administrative procedures.

Conservation activities have expanded to include soil health planning, building soil organic matter through crop rotations and activities that help producers adapt to or mitigate impacts of volatile weather conditions. CSP also encourages the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques such as precision agriculture applications and new soil amendments to improve water quality.

NRCS accepts applications year-round but makes funding selections at specific times. Those interested in fiscal year 2020 funding must submit applications on or before May 29, 2020. Producers interested in CSP should contact their local USDA service center or visit

Learn more about our CSP Champions by visiting our Virginia website.

* These options may not be offered in FY20.

Full article links below:

Virginia CSP Champions – Keeping Conservation in the Family – Veteran farmer carries on stewardship legacy

Virginia CSP Champions – Keeping Conservation in the Family – Collaboration key to Augusta dairy’s stewardship success