Conservation Programs



The United States Department of Agriculture, through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA), currently administers approximately two dozen federal conservation programs. Conservation programs are voluntary federal programs designed to encourage agricultural producers and landowners to undertake conservation practices on agricultural lands. While the NRCS and FSA administer the programs, other agencies such as the Forest Service may assist in the implementation of some programs. Read the full overview.

Note: Recently added resources are posted at the top of the applicable sections.

Major Statutes

Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, Pub. L. No. 117-169, tit. II, 136 Stat. 1818 §§ 21001-23005 (codified at scattered sections of 7 U.S.C.
Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (a/k/a 2018 Farm Bill), Pub. L. No. 115-334, tit. II, 132 Stat. 4490, 4530-4603 §§ 2101-2822 (codified at scattered sections of 7, 16, & 43 U.S.C.) (Conservation Title)
Agricultural Act of 2014 (a/k/a 2014 Farm Bill), Pub. L. No. 113-179, tit. II, 128 Stat. 649, 713-772 §§ 2001-2713 (codified at scattered sections of 7, 16, & 43 U.S.C.) (Conservation Title)
Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (a/k/a 2008 Farm Bill), Pub. L. No. 110-246, tit. II, 122 Stat. 1651, 1753-1819 §§ 2001-2904 (codified at scattered sections of 7, 16, & 43 U.S.C.) (Conservation Title)
Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (a/k/a 2002 Farm Bill), Pub. L. No. 107-171, tit. II, 116 Stat. 134,223-80, §§ 2001-2702 (codified at scattered sections of 7, 16, & 43 U.S.C.) (Conservation Title)
Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (a/k/a 1996 Farm Bill), Pub. L. No. 104-127, tit. III, 110 Stat. 888, 980-1026, §§ 301-391 (codified as amended at scattered sections of 7, 15, & 16 U.S.C.) (Conservation Title)
Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (a/k/a 1990 Farm Bill), Pub. L. No. 101-624, tit. XIV, 104 Stat. 3359, 3568-3632 (codified as amended at scattered sections of 7 & 16 U.S.C.) (Conservation Title)
Food Security Act of 1985 (a/k/a 1985 Farm Bill), Pub. L. No. 99-198, tit. XII, 99 Stat. 1354, 1504-18, tit. XII (codified at scattered sections of 7 & 16 U.S.C.) (Conservation Title)
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4370m-12
Healthy Forests Restoration Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 6501-6591, 6571-78 (authorizing Healthy Forests Reserve Program)
Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act of 1954,16 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1012a; Pub. L. 83-566, 68 Stat. 666
Farmland Protection Policy Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 4201-4209


Excludes regulations for specific conservation programs.

Technical Assistance, 7 C.F.R. pt. 610
National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Appeal Procedures, 7 C.F.R. pt. 614
Farm Service Agency Appeal Procedures, 7 C.F.R. pt. 780
Certified Mediation Program, 7 C.F.R. pt. 785
National Appeals Division (NAD) Regulations, 7 C.F.R. pt. 11
NRCS Procedures for Granting Equitable Relief from Ineligibility, 7 C.F.R. pt. 635
NRCS Compliance With National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 7 C.F.R. pt. 650
Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation Regulations, 7 C.F.R. pt. 12

Major Conservation Programs

Center Note: Many conservation programs are governed by regulations that govern only a specific program, such as the Conservation Reserve Program. Other conservation programs, such as the Healthy Forests Reserve Program, are not governed by regulations applicable only to those programs. The conservation programs listed below are linked to their respective governing regulations, if such regulations exist. A link to the appropriate information is provided for those programs listed below for which there are not specific regulations.

Agricultural Management Assistance, 7 C.F.R. pt. 1465
Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, 7 C.F.R. pt. 1468
Regional Conservation Partnership Program
Conservation Innovation Grants
Conservation of Private Grazing Lands, 7 C.F.R. pt. 610
Conservation Reserve Program, 7 C.F.R. pt. 1410
Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, 7 C.F.R. § 1410.90
Farmable Wetlands Program 7 C.F.R. § 1410.11
Conservation Security Program (CSP), 7 C.F.R. pt. 1469
Conservation Stewardship Program 7 C.F.R. pt. 1470
Conservation Technical Assistance Program
Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWPP), 7 C.F.R. pt. 624
Emergency Wetlands Reserve Program, 7 C.F.R. pt. 623
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), 7 C.F.R. pt. 1466
Farmland Protection Policy Act Regulations, 7 C.F.R. pt. 658
Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP) 7 C.F.R. §§ 701.203-701.226
Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative
Great Plains Conservation Program, 7 C.F.R. pt. 631
Healthy Forests Reserve Program 7 C.F.R. pt. 625
Rural Abandoned Mine Program, 7 C.F.R. pt. 632
Rural Clean Water Program, 7 C.F.R. pt. 634
“Grassroots” Source Water Protection Program
Watershed Projects Protection and Flood Prevention Program, 7 C.F.R. pt. 622
Technical Assistance Furnished 7 C.F.R. § 610.4

Case Law

Case Law Index for Conservation Programs

Administrative Law Decisions

USDA Judicial Officer’s Decisions
USDA Office of the Administrative Law Judges
USDA National Appeals Division

Center Research Publications

Farm Bill Conservation Programs: Swampbuster and Sodbuster (Snowden & Rollins, 2020)
Environmental Law: Federal Laws That Affect Agriculture – PowerPoint Presentation (Springsteen, 2009)
Biodiversity and Law: The Culture of Agriculture and the Nature of Nature Conservation (Harbison, 2004)
Biodiversity and the Law of Nature Conservation in Great Britain (Harbison, 2004)
Conservation Security Program and Grassland Reserve Program Under the 2002 Farm Bill (Pittman, 2003)
Dealing With the USDA: Administrative Law Basics (Kelley, 2002)
Summary and Evolution of U. S. Farm Bill Conservation Titles (O’Brien)

Congressional Research Service Reports

Reports– published and made available by CRS beginning in 2017
Subjects – published by CRS and made available by NALC until 2018:

Environmental Issues
Farm Bills
Finance and Credit

Agricultural Law Bibliography

Introduction   |   Keyword Search   |   Browse Categories

Legal publications on Conservation Programs:

Environmental Issues
Land Use Regulation
Leases, Landlord-Tenant

Reference Resources

Economic Research Service (ERS)

Subject: Natural Resources and Environment
Briefing Rooms: Conservation Programs
Briefing Rooms: Farm and Commodity Policy

ERS Recommended Readings:

Agricultural Conservation: A Guide to Programs (Congressional Research Service, 2020)
Conservation Trends in Agriculture Reflect Policy, Technology, and Other Factors (Marshall et al., 2019)
Working Lands Conservation Contract Modifications: Patterns in Dropped Practices (Wallander et al., 2019)
The Effect of Conservation Payments on Farmer Adoption Varies Across Conservation Practices (Claassen and Smith, 2018)
The US Conservation Reserve Program: The Evolution of an Enrollment Mechanism (Hellerstein, 2017)
Conservation Compliance in the Crop Insurance Era (Claassen and Bowman, 2017)
Options for Improving Conservation Programs: Insights from Auction Theory and Economic Experiments (Hellerstein et al., 2015)
Cost Share Programs for Florida’s Agricultural Producers and Landowners (Mylavarapu, Rao et al., 2014)
2014 Farm Act Continues Most Previous Trends in Conservation (Claassen, 2014)
The Role of Conservation Program Design in Drought-Risk Adaption (Wallander et al., 2013)
The Future of Environmental Compliance Incentives in U.S. Agriculture (Claassen, 2012)
Green Payments: Can Conservation and Commodity Programs be Combined? (Claassen, 2012)
Conservation Reserve Program and Wetland Reserve Program (Ferris and Siikamäki, 2009)
Conservation-Compatible Practices and Programs: Who Participates? (Lambert et al., 2006)
Rewarding Farm Practices Versus Environmental Performance (Weinberg and Claassen, 2006)
Greening Income Support and Supporting Green (Claassen and Morehart, 2006)
Land Retirement and Working Land Conservation Structures: A Look at Farmers’ Choices (Lambert and Sullivan, 2006)
Contrasting Working-Land and Land Retirement Programs (Aillery, 2006)
Balancing the Multiple Objectives of Conservation Programs (Cattaneo et al., 2006)
The Conservation Reserve Program: Economic Implications for Rural America (Bucholtz et al., 2004)
Agri-Environmental Policy at the Crossroads: Guideposts on a Changing Landscape (Claassen et al., 2001)
Economic Valuation of Environmental Benefits and the Targeting of Conservation Programs: The Case of the CRP (Feather et al., 1999)

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

NRCS Conservation Programs & Initiatives
Natural Resource Concerns
Directives and Manuals
Field Office Technical Guides (FOTG)
Find Your Local Service Center
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
Conservation Innovation Grants
Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP)
Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP)
Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE)
Landscape Conservation Initiatives
Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative
On-Farm Energy Initiative
Agricultural Conservation Easement Program
Agricultural Land Easements
Agricultural Management Assistance
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
Organic Initiative
Air Quality Initiative
National Water Quality Initiative
Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP)

Farm Service Agency (FSA)

Conservation Programs
FSA Handbooks
Conservation Cost-Share Automation System Operations
CCC Conservation Automation System Operations
Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program
Emergency Conservation Program

Congressional Resources

U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee
U.S. House Committee on Agriculture
Reports on Conservation Programs (Government Accountability Office (GAO)

Other Federal Resources

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Environmental Protection Agency


Agricultural Conservation: A Guide to Programs (Congressional Research Service, 2022)
Inflation Reduction Act: Agricultural Conservation and Credit, Renewable Energy, and Forestry (Congressional Research Service, 2022)
Research Insights: How Does Crop Insurance Impact On-Farm Conservation Practices? (Economic + Environmental Risk Coalition, 2021)
Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches and Communities (Economic + Environmental Risk Coalition, 2021)
Cost-Share Programs (Southern Group of State Foresters)
The Impact of Federal Crop Insurance on the Conservation Reserve Program (DeLay, 2019)
What’s New: Natural Resources Conservation Service and the 2018 Farm Bill (USDA)
Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs: Conservation & Environment (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition)
Applying for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education)
Applying for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education)
NRCS Cost Sharing and Other Opportunities (American Forest Foundation My Land Plan The Woodland Owner’s Resource)
Ensuring the Future of Agriculture (USDA, 2018)
Saving the Nation’s Wetlands (USDA, 2018)
Cost Share Programs for Florida’s Agricultural Producers and Landowners (University of Florida, IFAS Extension, 2018)
The US Conservation Reserve Program: The Evolution of an Enrollment Mechanism (Hellerstein, 2017)
The 2014 Agricultural Act’s Impact on Farmers: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions (NC State University, 2014)
Conservation Reserve Program and Wetland Reserve Program (Ferris and Siikamäki, 2009)
Is Your Farm “EQIPed” for Conservation? A Farmers’ Guide to Understanding the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Inc. (FLAG), 2007)
Building Better Rural Places: Federal Programs for Sustainable Agriculture, Forestry, and Community Development (USDA, ATTRA, NCAT, et al., 2005)
History and Outlook for Farm Bill Conservation Programs (Cain & Lovejoy, 2004)

Additional Resources

Conservation Programs Posts (Ag & Food Law Blog)
American Farmland Trust
History and Outlook for Farm Bill Conservation Programs (Cain & Lovejoy, 2004)
AgManager.Info, Ag Policy: Conservation Programs (KS State Res. & Ext.)
Ducks Unlimited
National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)