Highly Erodible Land Conservation Compliance Provisions

The Food Security Act of 1985, as amended, provides dis-incentives to farmers and ranchers who produce annually tilled agricultural commodity crops on highly erodible cropland without adequate erosion protection.  In addition, these dis-incentives apply to farmers and ranchers who produce annually tilled agricultural commodities or make possible the production of agricultural commodities on land classified as wetlands.


  • Reduce soil losses on the Nation's cropland from the effects of wind and water erosion.
  • Protect the Nation's long-term capability to produce food and fiber.
  • Reduce sedimentation and improve water quality.
  • Preserve and protect the Nation's wetlands.

This document requires Adobe Acrobat.

2002 Compliance Key Points (137 KB)
2005 Wetland Determination Key Points and Rationale for Withdrawal from the Ag MOA (31.25 KB) 
2005 Joint Guidance for NRCS and the Army Corps of Engineers on Conducting Wetland Determinations for the Food Security Act of 1985 and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (403.25 KB) 

Specific Requirements and Information

National Food Security Act Manual (NFSAM)


3rd Edition

Part 527 Appendix (PDF, 2.7MB)

4th Edition

There are no hard copy versions of these parts available. Parts may be downloaded from the NRCS policy website at  Select "Manuals" under the "Browse by Directive" list, Title 180 - Conservation Planning and Application
National Food Security Act Manual, Fourth Edition.

All information regarding appeals of HELC/WC adverse decisions shall be administered using the policy set forth in the Conservation Programs Manual, Part 510, Appeals and Mediation.

2008 Farm Bill Changes

The 2008 Farm Bill, Sections 2002(f)(2) and 2003(h)(2) added the following provision to both the Highly Erodible Land (Sodbuster) and Wetland Conservation (Swampbuster) provisions: 

Eligible reviewers of good faith determinations shall be:

  1. State Executive Director, with the technical concurrence of the State Conservationist; or
  2. District Director, with the technical concurrence of the Area Conservationist.

The 2008 Farm Bill, Section 2002(f)(4) also made an addition to the Highly Erodible Land (Sodbuster) provisions that allows for graduated payment reduction as a penalty for violation of the HEL conservation provisions.



These documents require Adobe Acrobat.

Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Audit 10099-8-KC, September 2002 (PDF, 579KB)
General Accounting Office (GAO) Audit GAO-03-418, April 2003 (PDF, 3.6MB)
Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Audit Report 50601-13-KC 2008 (PDF, 57KB)

Compliance Training

The following documents require Microsoft PowerPoint.

2002 Farm Bill Compliance Training Presentation (4.2 MB)

October 2003, HELC/WC Compliance Training Presentation (893 KB)
This presentation was given at an all employees meeting held in Marshalltown, IA and may be used as is. This presentation contains the most current regulatory information.

June 24, 2004 HELC/WC Compliance Training - OIG and GAO Audit Recommendations; Statutory and Regulatory Requirements of Compliance; Compliance Status Reviews; Questions and Answers (186.50 KB)