Issue Brief

Farm Bill Conservation Programs



NCEL Point of Contact

Chris Askew-Merwin
Sustainable Agriculture and Water Specialist



The Conservation Title in the Farm Bill covers programs that help farmers and ranchers implement natural resource conservation efforts on working lands like pasture and croplands as well as land retirement and easement programs. These voluntary programs account for 7% of the Farm Bill budget and are around $30 billion.

Land Retirement and Easement Programs

Sets land aside for conservation

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

  • Turns smaller chunks of environmentally sensitive land into conservation buffers
  • Includes subprograms such as Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, Farmable Wetland Program, Clean Lakes and Estuaries and River Pilot (CLEAR30), Soil Health and Income Protection Program, and Transition Incentives Program
  • 10-15 year contracts

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)

  • Converts larger swathes of land into long-term wetlands or grasslands
  • Permanent or 30-year easements

Working Land Programs 

Implements conservation measures on land that is still in production; demand for these programs exceeds supply

Environmental Quality Incentives Programs (EQIP

  • Financial cost-share and technical assistance to adopt conservation practices, often a fix-it program for erosion and other problems on working lands
  • 5-year contracts

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP

  • Rewards farmers and ranchers for implementing and managing comprehensive conservation systems for the whole farm
  • 5-year programs

Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA)

  • Helps farmers and ranchers in 16 states reduce financial risk through diversification, marketing, or adopting conservation practices

Partnership and Grant Programs

Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)

  • Universities, state agencies, and local groups partner together on a regional scale for target watersheds
  • Often have state or local match


  • Conservation Innovation Grants, On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials, Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program, Voluntary Public Access, Habitat Incentive Program

Planning and Assistance

Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) 

  • Conservation planning, education and outreach, and funds for NRCS staff and partners to career out conservation programs panning and education and outreach to farmers
  • Conservation loans

Conservation Loans

Low-interest loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) or certain commercial lenders to help farmers and ranchers finance conservation projects

Conservation Compliance 

Conservation program requirements that must be met to receive farm bill benefits

  • Swampbuster – farmers who accept farm bill benefits cannot drain or fill a wetland to farm
  • Sodbuster – farmers who accept benefits must have a soil conservation plan for their highly erodible soil
  • Sodsaver – farmers in six prairie pothole states get crop insurance subsidies reduced if they break up native prairie


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