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USDA Announces Updated Conservation Practice Standards

USDA 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’s National Conservation Practice Standards provides 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 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. To learn about the benefits of conservation practices directly from the farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners applying them, check out the Conservation at Work video series.

Kathy Fidler is a USDA Public Affairs Specialist. She can be reached at