To participate in most United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs, agricultural producers agree to comply with the wetland conservation provisions, which means producers will not farm converted wetlands or convert wetlands to enable or enhance agricultural production.
On December 23, 1985 Congress enacted the Food Security Act which linked United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) program eligibility to certain conditions. These conditions, known as the highly erodible land and wetland conservation provisions, were enacted to:
- Reduce soil loss due to wind and water erosion;
- Protect the Nation's long-term capability to produce food and fiber;
- Reduce sedimentation and improve water quality; and
- Assist in preserving the values, acreage, and functions of the Nation's wetlands.
In order to maintain eligibility for most USDA programs, producers must comply with the conservation provisions, agreeing they will not:
- Produce an agricultural commodity on highly erodible land without an adequate conservation system;
- Plant an agricultural commodity on a converted wetland;
- Convert a wetland to make possible the production of an agricultural commodity.
How to Ensure Compliance
Producers self-certify compliance by filing Form AD-1026 when enrolling in USDA programs. If unsure if an AD-1026 is filed for your land, contact a Farm Service Agency (FSA) representative at the local USDA Service Center.
Once the form is accurately completed and filed, it remains effective, unless changes to the agricultural operation occur and/or new activities arise which change the previous self-certification (for example, the intent to bring new land into production or install new drainage structures). The form is not specific to a particular crop. It covers all land that a producer farms.
The filing of the AD-1026 may trigger USDA to provide a determination to the producer in order to communicate whether the identified field contains wetlands or has highly erodible lands. NRCS is responsible for making these determinations. Many determinations can be made using off-site methods. NRCS develops a preliminary technical determination for the producer to review and a new or additional field visit can be requested through an appeal.
Learn more about:
- Highly Erodible Land Determinations
- Certified Wetland Determinations
- Technical Determinations Appeals Process
Highly Erodible Land
The Food Security Act's highly erodible land (HEL) provisions are designed to protect the Nation's long-term capability to produce food and fiber. HEL is land that can erode at an excessive rate because of soil properties, leading to long-term decreased productivity. Highly erodible land is designated on a field basis and based on the proportion of the total field acreage that contains highly erodible soils. Producers of agricultural commodities must manage HEL fields according to an NRCS approved conservation plan or conservation system.
The Food Security Act's wetland conservation provisions are designed to preserve the values, acreage, and functions of the Nation's wetlands. A wetland is an area that is inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a duration to support plants adapted to grow in water. A wetland also has a predominance of hydric, or wet, soils. In general, producers may farm these areas when conditions permit but may not convert the wetland through removal of water or trees. Producers also cannot plant an agricultural commodity on a wetland previously converted by someone else.
- HEL and Wetland Conservation Food Security Act Statute, as amended (through 2018 Farm Bill)
- Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR Part 12) - Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation
- August 2020 Final Rule – 7 CFR Part 12
- December 2018 Interim Final Rule – 7 CFR Part 12
- National Food Security Act Manual