LINCOLN, May 6, 2014 - As the days become longer and warmer, Nebraska producers begin spring planting. The USDA wants to remind farmers to keep conservation compliance in mind before making any major land use changes on their farming or ranching operations.
Conservation compliance refers to the USDA requirement that highly erodible land be farmed in a manner that maintains a certain level of residue and minimizes soil erosion. This may include practicing no-till or planting cover crops.
Conservation compliance also prohibits the conversion of wetlands, or planting agricultural commodities on a converted wetland. Converting a wetland may include removal of trees, installing new drainage, or modifying existing drainage areas.
According to Craig Derickson, state conservationist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, there has been some confusion on what is required of farmers regarding conservation compliance with the passage of the new Farm Bill.
“We want producers to be sure to visit their local USDA Service Center before making any major land use changes on their farm or ranch. Although rules have changed due to the new Farm Bill, there are still requirements producers need to follow to remain eligible for USDA farm benefits,” Derickson said.
The Agricultural Act of 2014 – the new Farm Bill - continues the requirement that producers adhere to conservation compliance guidelines in order to be eligible for most programs administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). This includes the new price and revenue protection programs, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Livestock Disaster Assistance Programs and Marketing Assistance Loans implemented by FSA. It also includes conservation programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) administered by NRCS.
“Staff at the USDA Service Center will work one-on-one with producers to ensure that any new farming operations will protect natural resources and the sustainability of their farm, and don’t put their USDA farm program benefits at risk. Now more than ever, it’s critical for conservation compliance to be a strategic part of each producer’s operation,” Derickson said.