Conservation planning assists landowners to protects ag land resources

Natural Resources Conservation Service
Farm Forum

Huron, S.D. – There is no perfect time to begin the conservation planning process, but now as agricultural producers wrap up harvest and get livestock situated for winter months, starting to plan for 2018 is as good a time as any. While out in the fields or pastures this fall, people may have observed some things on their land that they would like to address and work to improve.

Many landowners have resource concerns they want to address and there are solutions; consider a conservation plan. Developing a plan to manage the natural resources as part of a whole farm or ranch system is the goal of conservation planning. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) provides this service to help landowners with their farm or ranch objectives for natural resources. The process encourages landowners to evaluate their whole operation and identify natural resource concerns with free help of experienced specialists.

USDA NRCS State Agronomist Marcia Deneke explains, “The conservation planning process allows the producer to work with individuals who are trained in this area to formulate what different alternatives are available to them.” Once those alternatives have been determined, “the producer then makes the decision to what they want to do to address the resource concerns,” she continues.

Conservation planning is often the first step in natural resource protection or enhancement. A conservation plan is required before agricultural producers can apply for Farm Bill program opportunities offered by USDA NRCS such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Deneke says once a conservation plan is developed, “it helps producers monitor their progress and stay on course with the implementation of specific practices.”

Conservation plans can be crafted for both owned and leased land. The process with USDA NRCS is free and completely voluntary. “Producers are the decision makers,” said Deneke. “They decide what they want to do with their operation. Our staff provides input and make suggestions and help people understand the science and practice standards. But the final decision is always the producers.”

Conservation planning is available across South Dakota. Producers interested in learning more should contact any USDA Service Center. For information about technical assistance and conservation planning, visit or visit