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

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. §§ 4321-4370f
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.

Conservation Stewardship Program, 7 CFR pt. 1470
State Technical Committees, 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 State 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
Federal Register Rules Open for Comment

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
Regional Conservation Easement Program
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
Farmable Wetlands Program
Conservation Security Program (CSP), 7 C.F.R. pt. 1469
Conservation Stewardship Program
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
Forest Land Enhancement Program, 36 C.F.R. §§ 230.30-230.46
Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP)
Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative
Great Plains Conservation Program, 7 C.F.R. pt. 631
Healthy Forests Reserve Program
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 § 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

Environmental Law: Federal Laws That Affect Agriculture – PowerPoint Presentation (Springsteen, 2009)
Dealing With the USDA: Administrative Law Basics (Kelley, 2002)
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)
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 Policy
Briefing Rooms: Farm and Commodity Policy
Overview: Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS)

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)
Farmland Protection: The Role of Public Preferences for Rural Amenities (Hellerstein et al., 2002)
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
Directives and Manuals
Field Office Technical Guides (FOTG)
Regional Boundaries, State Offices, Centers
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
Easement Programs
Agricultural Conservation Easement Program
Emergency Watershed Protection Program

Farm Service Agency (FSA)

Conservation Programs
Forest Service
State and Private Forestry
FSA Handbook for Conservation and Environmental Protection
Conservation Cost-Share Automation System Operations
CCC Conservation Automation System Operations
Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program
Agricultural Resource Conservation Program
Emergency Conservation Program
Environmental Quality Programs
Stewardship Incentive Program

Congressional Resources

U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee
U.S. House Committee on Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture: Improved Management Controls Can Enhance Effectiveness of Key Conservation Programs (GAO-09-528T, 2009)
Agricultural Conservation: Farm Program Payments Are an Important Factor in Landowners’ Decisions to Convert Grassland to Cropland (GAO-07-1054, 2007)
Reports on Conservation Programs (Government Accountability Office (GAO))

Other Federal Resources

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


Myers, Robert. Research Insights: How Does Crop Insurance Impact On-Farm Conservation Practices? (Economic + Environmental Risk Coalition, 2021)
Cost-Share Programs (Southern Group of State Foresters)
USDA NRCS Cost-Share (Manistee Conservation District)
What’s New: Natural Resources Conservation Service and the 2018 Farm Bill (USDA)
Apply for EQIP (United States Department of Agriculture)
Conservation & Environment (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition)
Applying for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education)
NRCS Cost Sharing and Other Opportunities (American Forest Foundation My Land Plan The Woodland Owner’s Resource)
NRCS-Based Cost Share Program (University of Kentucky)
Brief History of the USDA Soil Bank Program (Helms, J. Douglas. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service)
2018 Omnibus Act Nixes Requirement for Farmers (DUNS and SAM Update)
Agricultural Act of 2014: Highlights and Implications (USDA, ERS)
Protection and Recovery (USDA)
Are There Any Conservation Compliance Requirements For Farmers Who Purchase Crop Insurance? (Crop Insurance Keeps America Growing)
Ensuring the Future of Agriculture (USDA, 2018)
Saving the Nation’s Wetlands (USDA, 2018)
Innovation Program Leads the Way on Water Conservation (MacSwain, 2016)
The 2014 Agricultural Act’s Impact on Farmers: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions (NC State University, 2014)
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)
U.S. Agri-Environmental Programs and Their Potential Implications for Agricultural Trade (Cooper, UC Berkley, 2005)
Private Lands, Public Benefits (National Governor’s Association Center for Best Practices, 2001)

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)
National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA)