The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) was created to “help you help the land”, and HHCD is here to help guide you through the process so that you can access the financial and technical assistance you seek! Through NRCS, you can make many improvements to your land, such as:

  • reduced soil erosion, through practices such as cover cropping, residue management, and reduced tillage,
  • improved soil health and increased organic matter, 
  • improved irrigation efficiency and water conservation,
  • nutrient management and reduced runoff into surface waters,
  • climate change adaptation techniques,
  • enhanced wildlife and pollinator habitat,
  • brush management for forests,
  • and so much more!

Are you curious whether NRCS resources are a good fit for your farm or forest? Give us a call! Accessing USDA programs and resources can feel overwhelming, so let us help. HHCD’s Program Manager has received Conservation Planner training from NRCS and is available to help guide you through the process.  Call the District cell phone at (413) 362-4720, or contact your local USDA field office at the numbers listed below.

Explore the resources below to learn more about working with NRCS.

Western Mass NRCS Locations

Don’t see your local office? Use the USDA Service Center Locator here.

Hampden & Hampshire Counties

Hadley Service Center

195 Russell St, Hadley MA 01035


(413) 585-1000 ext. 3


(413) 585-1000 ext. 2

Franklin County

Greenfield Service Center

55 Federal St, Greenfield MA 01301


(413) 772-0384


(413) 223-9277

Berkshire County

Pittsfield Service Center

Federal Bldg 78 Center St, Pittsfield 01201


(413) 443-1776 ext. 3


(413) 443-1776 ext. 2

Working with NRCS

Not sure where to start?

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service may be able to help. NRCS works with farmers, ranchers, tribes and other individuals interested in conserving the soil, water and other natural resources on their land. NRCS can help you identify natural resource concerns and develop a conservation plan to address those issues on your property. Funding is available to help you offset the costs to implement the actions identified in your conservation plan, and NRCS offers technical assistance for free! Some things to know before you get started:

It's a contract

It’s important to understand that to receive financial payments from NRCS, you are entering into a contract with the U.S. government. That means you agree to complete certain conservation activities on your land within a set time frame to earn financial incentives. NRCS understands that things can happen outside your control that result in delays, so you may be able to modify the contract if needed. While NRCS accepts applications for its conservation programs year-round, there are state-specific, ranking dates to evaluate and prioritize applications for funding. You should apply by the ranking dates to be considered for funding in the current cycle.

You pay up-front costs

NRCS contracts work kind of like a mail-in rebate. Typically, you pay the costs up-front for conservation practices, then NRCS issues you a payment after completion. Therefore, it’s important to consider your out-of-pocket costs up-front and determine if the proposed project makes financial sense for your operation. Advance payments are an option that can minimize your up-front costs if you qualify as a historically underserved producer. Ask your local NRCS office if that sounds like a better fit for you.

NRCS payments vary depending on the type of conservation practice. Check with your local office to find out more about payment amounts.

Work must take place durince the contract timeline

This means you’ll need to wait to begin working on a conservation practice until your contract is signed. NRCS will help you in the planning process to figure out the best schedule for your operation.

Projects must meet NRCS design standards

Because NRCS wants to ensure the conservation projects on your land will perform as intended, the agency has developed science-based conservation standards to reach of the conservation practices. When you implement projects on your land, they need to meet NRCS technical specifications – activities that fall short of these standards will not receive payment. Once work is completed, NRCS staff will visit your land to certify that the conservation practices have been comploeted according to the conservation standards. Once NRCS certifies the practice, you will receive payment via direct deposit.

Paying income tax on NRCS payments

By law, you must report any payments you receive from NRCS as taxable income when filing your annual income tax return. You may need to conser how this will impact your tax returns, before deciding whether NRCS assistance is right for you.

Your information is strictly confidential!!

NRCS financial assistance programs require you to provide personal & financial information to process your applications, contracts, and payments. This information is kept confidential and is protected by the USDA.

Conservation assistance is free!!

The Conservation Technical Assistance Program (CTA) provides a landowner with the knowledge and tools they need to conserve, maintain and restore the natural resources on their land and improve the health of an operation for the future. NRCS offers this asssitance at no cost! The goal is to give you personalized advice and information, based on the latest science and research, to help you make an informed decision.

Five steps to NRCS Assistance

1. Planning

  • The Call or visit your local NRCS office for information on programs and assistance.
  • Describe your agricultural operation and discuss problems on your land that you want to correct.
  • Make an appointment for a site visit with an NRCS conservation planner.
  • Walk the property, identify your goals, objectives and natural resource conerns, and discuss alternatives with the planner.
  • Develop a conservation plan with the planner or update your existing plan.

2. Application & eligibility

  • Inquire whether financial assistance is available and request an application packet.
  • Establish farm records and complete eligibility paperwork with FSA.
  • Submit your completed application, certify your control of land, signature authority, tax ID, and direct deposit information to NRCS.
  • All eligibility requirements must be met before your application can move forward.

3. Finalize planning decisions

  • More than one field visit may be necessary with NRCS planners, resource specialists, and engineers to examine the technical feasibility and specification requirements of alternative practices.
  • Cost estimates and draft design are given to you. You can check with local contractors for actual prices.
  • You make the decision on which applicable practices will be recorded in your plan and the scheduling of those practices.
  • We compile the final conservation plan and implementation guidance for you, and initiate any necessary interagency reviews such as a cultural resources evaluation or a Massachusetts Natural Heritage & Endangered Species review.

4. Ranking

  • Determine which funding pool best fits your application. A funding pool is an amount of money that NRCS has set aside for special categories of applications.
  • Your application will be avaluated using a ranking tool that socres how well the project meets program objectives.
  • All applications competing in a funding pool will be batch ranked, and the highest ranking applications will be selected for funding.

5. Contract and implementation

  • If your application is selected for funding, you choose whether or not to move forward with contract development.
  • Once a contract is signed, you will be provided with standards and spcifications for implementing the planned practices.
  • When the work is completed, NRCS certifies that the practice meets the implementation requirements.
  • Once certified, your payment request is processed, and directly deposited into your bank account!

NRCS History

A history of helping people help the land

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) draws on a long history of helping people help the land. For more than 80 years, NRCS and its predecessor agencies have worked in close partnerships with farmers and ranchers, local and state governments, and other federal agencies to maintain healthy and productive working landscapes.

A brief history of NRCS

On April 27, 1935 Congress passed Public Law 74-46, in which it recognized that “the wastage of soil and moisture resources on farm, grazing, and forest lands . . .  is a menace to the national welfare” and established the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) as a permanent agency in the USDA. In 1994, SCS’s name was changed to the Natural Resources Conservation Service to better reflect the broadened scope of the agency’s concerns. In doing so, Congress reaffirmed the federal commitment to the conservation of the nation’s soil and water resources, first made more than 80 years ago, that continues to this day. To read more about the history of NRCS click here: A Brief History of NRCS

The Conservation Partnership

Collectively, the Massachusetts conservation districts and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service are known as the Conservation Partnership. A conservation district is a subdivision of local government, established under state law to carry out programs for the conservation and wise management of soil, water and related resources. There are thirteen conservation districts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Each district is governed by a board of supervisors–locally elected citizens who volunteer their time and leadership to the conservation effort. Conservation district supervisors work hand-in-hand with NRCS to deliver technical assistance to the people of Massachusetts.  NRCS provides technical services while the districts provide representation from the local community and the leadership to set priorities for conservation activities and develop new programs. This partnership between NRCS and the conservation districts is one that was carefully designed. This unique and productive relationship continues to be a model for providing federal resources at the local level.  Find out more about locally-led conservation.

Conservation Districts

Conservation districts are the mechanism by which cooperation can take place through landowners, state agencies, federal agencies, programs, grants, and a variety of other partners. Districts provide help to landowners and others on resource management, land-use planning, and detailed soils information. Districts set the local priorities, administer grants, facilitate fund leveraging, and provide a variety of outreach services.