The Special Area Land Treatment (SALT) program was established as a pilot program in 1986. The local soil and water conservation districts use the SALT program to work with landowners to reduce soil erosion on crop, pasture and woodland and to target special assistance in a priority watershed. A priority watershed is one where the district has identified a priority issue or problem needing to be addressed on a watershed basis. SALT identified problems might include soil erosion, contaminated drinking water, stream degradation, or contaminated lakes or streams.

The goal of the SALT program was to treat a minimum of 80 percent of the land needing treatment within a five-year period. Land was treated with a variety of conservation practices, depending on what would work best to solve the specific problems in the watershed. Since 1986, over one hundred seventy locally led SALT projects have completed throughout Missouri.

In 1992, the Soil and Water Conservation Districts Commission recognized the need to address soil erosion control in larger watersheds. At this time, EARTH projects began, which targeted financial and technical assistance to landowners in larger watersheds for erosion control and prevention. Twenty-seven EARTH projects have been completed since 1992. The total area covered by SALT and EARTH watersheds was 3.3 million acres. Of the 910,000 acres identified as needing treatment, 642,000 were treated. As a result, an estimated 9.2 million tons of soil was kept from entering Missouri's streams and lakes.

From their onset, the traditional SALT/EARTH projects were scheduled to be funded through the end of fiscal year 1999. As these successful projects drew to a close, districts were looking for further financial opportunities that could assist them in addressing resource concerns in their watersheds. One option they could have pursued was through a new type of SALT project called an Agricultural Nonpoint Source (AgNPS) SALT project, offered through a new program called the AgNPS SALT Program.