USDA announces updated conservation practice standards

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Farm Forum

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service has completed and published updates to its set of National Conservation Practice Standards, which include 58 standards that have been updated or revised since August.

The 2018 Farm Bill required USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to review all 169 of its national conservation practices to seek opportunities to increase flexibility and incorporate new technologies.

“NRCS is committed to efficiently and effectively implementing the Farm Bill and delivering on our promise to America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners,” NRCS Acting Chief Kevin Norton said. “These practices are the building blocks of conservation, and they are science-based and site specific. We took a hard look at our existing practices on the books, looking for opportunities to improve flexibility and integrate technology.”

NRCS’s National Conservation Practice Standards provide guidelines for planning, designing, installing, operating and maintaining conservation practices.

The 58 revised standards cover a wide range of practices, including irrigation water management, heavy use area protection and composting facilities. During the review process, NRCS is adding two new conservation practices dealing with wastewater treatment and wildlife habitat planning, along with maintaining an additional 18 interim conservation practice standards that are being tested to establish and document natural resource benefits.

These updated practices include changes in technology and add criteria to address emerging concerns such as soil health, water conservation, drought tolerance and resiliency. They contribute to the USDA Agriculture Innovation Agenda’s goal of reducing the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture in half by 2050.

Earlier this year, Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the department-wide initiative to align resources, programs and research to position American agriculture to better meet future global demands.

For more information on the National Conservation Practice Standards, visit or contact your local NRCS field office.