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 Part 1470

State Technical Committees, 7 C.F.R. Part 610

National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Appeal Procedures, 7 C.F.R. Part 614

Farm Service Agency Appeal Procedures, 7 C.F.R. Part 780

Certified State Mediation Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 785

National Appeals Division (NAD) Regulations, 7 C.F.R. Part 11

NRCS Procedures for Granting Equitable Relief, 7 C.F.R. Part 635

NRCS Compliance With National Environmental Policy Act, 7 C.F.R. Part 650

Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation Regulations, 7 C.F.R. Part 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. Part 1465

Regional Conservation Easement Program

Regional Conservation Partnership Program

Conservation Innovation Grants

Conservation of Private Grazing Lands, 7 C.F.R. Part 610

Conservation Reserve Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 1410

Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program

Farmable Wetlands Program

Conservation Security Program (CSP), 7 C.F.R. Part 1469

Conservation Stewardship Program

Conservation Technical Assistance Program

Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWPP), 7 C.F.R. Part 624

Emergency Wetlands Reserve Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 623

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), 7 C.F.R. Part 1466

Farmland Protection Policy Act Regulations, 7 C.F.R. Part 658

Forest Land Enhancement Program, 36 C.F.R. §§ 230.30-230.46

Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative

Great Plains Conservation Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 631

Healthy Forests Reserve Program

Rural Abandoned Mine Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 632

Rural Clean Water Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 634

“Grassroots” Source Water Protection Program

Watershed Projects Protection and Flood Prevention Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 622

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)

Biodiversity and Law: The Culture of Agriculture and the Nature of Nature Conservation (Harbison)

Biodiversity and the Law of Nature Conservation in Great Britain (Harbison)

Conservation Security Program and Grassland Reserve Program Under the 2002 Farm Bill (Pittman)

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:

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, Higgins, and Roberts, 2015)

2014 Farm Act Continues Most Previous Trends in Conservation (Claassen, 2014)

The Role of Conservation Program Design in Drought-Risk Adaption (Wallander, Hellerstein, and Aillery, 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, 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 (Sullivan 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 Conservation Programs
Directives and Manuals
Field Office Technical Guides (eFOTG)
Regional Boundaries, State Offices, Centers
Conservation Resource Briefs

Farm Service Agency

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)

Reports on Conservation Programs (Government Accountability Office)

Other Federal Resources

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


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 (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, U. CA-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)