NRCS and USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) administer the program. Applications are accepted continuously. Each application is ranked by the NRCS State Conservationist and the FSA State Executive Director based upon criteria developed with input from the state technical committee.

Participants agree to limit future development and cropping uses of the land. They retain the right to conduct common grazing practices and operations; this is subject to certain restrictions during nesting seasons of bird species that are in significant decline. A grazing management plan is required for all participants.

Privately-owned grasslands and shrublands make up the largest land cover on America's private lands, covering more than 525 million acres. Grasslands are vital to livestock production. They provide food, cover, and nesting areas for wildlife, and filter nutrients from soil that would otherwise enter surface and groundwater. Healthy grasslands also prevent climate change by storing carbon dioxide that would re-enter the atmosphere and increase the greenhouse effect.

2010 represents the 75th year of NRCS "helping people help the land." Since its inception in 1935, the NRCS conservation delivery system has advanced a unique partnership with state and local governments and private landowners delivering conservation based on specific, local conservation needs, while accommodating state and national interests.