An Overview Of NRCS Farm Bill Programs

Published online: Sep 01, 2023 Articles Mindi Rambo, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Idaho
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With a new Farm Bill on the horizon, there will be plenty of exciting changes in the coming years. In the meantime, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will continue to assist customers following 2018 Farm Bill policies.

A Tradition Of Helping People Help The Land

For 88 years, NRCS has been providing assistance to help agricultural producers tackle their most pressing natural resource concerns, whether it be soil health, water quality and quantity, or nutrient management, among a host of options.

NRCS currently has an array of tools to help producers who want to install conversation practices on their operations. The General Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Classic Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) were given some added flexibilities and a “bridge” between those two programs was added by the 2018 Farm Bill. This “stepping stone” between standard conservation management and enhanced management is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program – Conservation Incentives Contract (EQIP-CIC).


EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to address natural resource concerns. It is the workhorse of the Farm Bill programs NRCS manages. In Idaho, EQIP accounts for more than 75 percent of NRCS’s Farm Bill funds. It is also the program farmers, ranchers and non-industrial timber producers are most familiar with. EQIP’s cost sharing feature allows for the installation of conservation practices that benefit not only the operation, but the surrounding area – good fences are not the only way to be good neighbors.


EQIP-CIC is an enrollment option created by the 2018 Farm Bill. It provides an opportunity to implement limited EQIP practices focusing on a list of specific options. Another aspect that sets EQIP-CIC apart is that the selected practices do not have to be implemented on the entire operation, can be on only a portion of it. EQIP-CIC contracts last a total of five years, with management practices receiving an annual payment and supporting practices paid when they are completed.


The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is the largest conservation program in the United States. Thousands of producers across the country choose to enroll in the program because it helps them build on their existing conservation efforts while continuing to strengthen their operations. Whether a farm is looking to increase crop resiliency, further reduce erosion or improve on-farm energy efficiency, NRCS can custom design a CSP plan to help them meet those goals. If a farmer is already taking steps to improve the condition of the land, chances are CSP can help them find new ways to meet those goals.

Potato growers can benefit from CSP. There are many enhancements specifically related to crop production. Enhancements are management activities that go above and beyond the minimum practice requirements to help achieve a higher level of conservation. Examples of enhancement options available to producers include cover crops to improve soil health and productivity, buffers to enhance water quality and water management activities to improve water efficiency. In addition, changes to CSP now allow for adaptive management options to better respond to market and weather conditions, allowing producers to choose enhancements, or bundles of enhancements, that best fit their circumstances.

To learn more about EQIP, EQIP-CIC or CSP, contact your local NRCS office. An NRCS conservationist will visit with you and evaluate the natural resources on your land. NRCS will then present a variety of conservation practices or system alternatives as part of an overall conservation plan. The conservation plan is a roadmap to help you address those concerns or management goals that improve or protect the natural resource conditions on your land.

Application deadlines for Farm Bill programs through NRCS vary depending upon the state. However, states may hold additional application periods during the year if additional funds become available. Your local NRCS office will have details.

Program Deadlines For Fiscal Year 2024


EQIP Sign up 1: October 6, 2023

EQIP Sign up 2: April 5, 2024

CSP Sign up 1: March 1, 2024

ACEP-ALE: Oct 13, 2024