Highly Erodible Land Conservation (HELC) and Wetland Conservation (WC) provisions aim to reduce soil loss on erosion-prone lands and to protect wetlands for the multiple benefits they provide. HELC and WC provisions apply to all land that is considered highly erodible or a wetland, and that is owned or farmed by persons voluntarily participating in USDA programs, unless USDA determines an exemption applies.
Producers, and any affiliated individuals or entities who participate in most programs administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Risk Management Agency (RMA) are required to comply with these provisions. Non-compliance may affect the following types of USDA program benefits:
FSA loans and disaster assistance payments
Protect the Nation's long-term capability to produce food and fiber.
NRCS and FSA conservation program benefits
Federal crop insurance premium subsidies
Compliance with HELC and WC Provisions
To comply with the HELC and WC provisions, producers must fill out and sign form AD-1026 certifying they will not:
Plant or produce an agricultural commodity on highly erodible land without following an NRCS approved conservation plan or system
Plant or produce an agricultural commodity on a converted wetland; or
Convert a wetland which makes the production of an agricultural commodity possible.
In addition, producers planning to conduct activities that may affect their HEL or WC compliance, for example removing fence rows, conducting drainage activities, or combining fields, must notify FSA by filing form AD-1026. FSA will notify NRCS, and NRCS will then provide highly erodible land or wetland technical evaluations and issue determinations if needed.
For more information, see the USDA press release, "USDA Reminds Farmers of 2014 Farm Bill Conservation Compliance Changes" (HTML USDA website or PDF on FSA website).
Specific Requirements and Information
Highly Erodible Land Conservation Wetland Conservation Compliance Fact Sheet (PDF, 52KB)
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)
National Food Security Act Manual (NFSAM)
Part 527 Appendix (PDF, 2.7MB)
There are no hard copy versions of these parts available. Parts may be downloaded from the NRCS policy website at http://policy.nrcs.usda.gov/. 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:
State Executive Director, with the technical concurrence of the State Conservationist; or
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.