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Conservation Compliance Glossary

Important terms to know to understand Conservation Compliance.

AD-1026 Highly Erodible Land Conservation (HELC) and Wetland Conservation (WC) Certification: the form program participants provide self-certification to USDA agreeing to comply with the conservation provisions of the 1985 Farm Bill and certifying compliance with the provisions.

Adverse decision: an administrative decision made by NRCS that an individual participant disagrees with.

Agricultural commodity: any crop planted and produced by annual tilling of the soil, including tilling by one-trip planters, or sugarcane. See our agricultural commodity list to learn which crops are generally considered annual and thus are agricultural commodities.

Agricultural production: the act of planting and harvesting an agricultural commodity.

Appeal: a written request by a participant requesting a review of an adverse NRCS technical determination.

Certified wetland determination: an official record in which NRCS delineates, determines, and certifies wetlands on a farm or ranch subject to wetland conservation provisions in order to establish a producer's eligibility for USDA programs.

Conservation plan: a document that describes the conservation system applicable to highly erodible cropland and describes the decisions of the person with respect to location, land use, tillage systems, and conservation treatment measures and schedules.

Conservation system: a combination of one or more conservation measures or management practices designed to reduce soil erosion on highly erodible cropland.

Converted wetland: a wetland that has been drained, dredged, filled, leveled, or otherwise manipulated (including the removal of woody vegetation or any activity that results in impairing or reducing the flow and circulation of water) for the purpose of, or to have the effect of, making possible the production of an agricultural commodity.

Erodibility index: a numerical value that expresses the potential erodibility of a soil in relation to its soil loss tolerance without consideration of applied conservation practices or management.

Erosion: the wearing away of the land surface by water, wind, or by such processes where soil or subsoil is displaced.

Field: a part of a farm that is separated from the balance of the farm by permanent boundaries such as fences, roads, permanent waterways, or other similar features.

Final Technical Determination: a HEL or wetland determination that has either gone through the informal appeal process or was not appealed within 30 days of issuance.

FSA the Farm Service Agency, an agency of USDA which is generally responsible for administering commodity production adjustment and certain conservation programs of USDA. FSA has primary responsibility for making producer eligibility determinations about compliance with HELC and WC provisions.

FSA County Committee: a panel of three to five farmers, elected by other farmers, to oversee the local operation of commodity programs, credit, and other programs of the Farm Service Agency.

HEL determination: a decision regarding whether a field is considered HEL and implementation of a conservation plan or system is required to protect the Nation's long-term capability to produce food and fiber.

Highly erodible land (HEL): land subject to the conservation provisions of the 1985 Food Security Act that is essential to protect the Nation's long-term capability to produce food and fiber. HEL soils have an erodibility index of 8 or more.

Hydric soils: soils, in an undrained condition, that are saturated, flooded, or ponded long enough during a growing season to develop an anaerobic condition that supports the growth and regeneration of hydrophytic vegetation.

Hydrology: inundation or saturation by surface or groundwater during a growing season at a frequency and duration enough to support a prevalence of hydrophytic vegetation.

Hydrophytic vegetation: plants growing in water or in a substrate that is at least periodically deficient in oxygen during a growing season as a result of excessive water content.

Mediation: a process in which a third-party mediator meets with the participant and Agency on an adverse decision. With the assistance of the mediator, the parties work together to improve communications, understand the relevant issues, develop alternatives, and reach a mutually satisfactory resolution.

Mitigation: the action of mitigating the loss of the functions, values, and acreage of a converted wetland through the restoration of a converted wetland, the restoration or enhancement of a degraded wetland, or the creation of a new wetland.

Mitigation banking: the restoration, creation or enhancement of wetlands for the purpose of compensating for manipulated wetlands at another location. The size and scope of the wetland restoration, creation or enhancement activities determine the quantity of credits available for sale. The price of credits is negotiated between the buyer and seller.

NAD: the National Appeals Division. This USDA Agency conducts appeal hearings and reviews of adverse decisions made by USDA when an appeal is requested by the participant.

Non-wetland: land that under normal circumstances does not meet wetland criteria.

NRCS: the Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency within USDA which is generally responsible for providing technical assistance in matters of natural resources conservation and for administering certain conservation programs of USDA. NRCS is responsible for administering the technical aspects of highly erodible land and wetland conservation provisions.

NRCS-CPA-026 Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation Determination: the form which NRCS certifies to program participants the absence or presence of HEL fields or wetlands on a farm.

Preliminary Technical Determination: the initial written decision by NRCS for a HELC and/or WC decision before it is considered final.

Program Participant: a person who participates in any USDA program.

Reconsideration: a request of the producer to review a preliminary technical determination completed by NRCS. Producers may provide additional documentation to be considered for the final technical determination.

Reconsideration Field visit: an onsite field review for the purpose of gathering additional information and discussing the facts relating to the preliminary technical determination. The participant may also provide any additional documentation to NRCS to consider in the final technical determination.

Self-certification: the action completed by program participants upon signing Form AD-1026, therefore agreeing to comply with the conservation provisions of the Food Security Act and certifying compliance with the provisions.

Soil map unit: an area of the landscape shown on a soil map which consists of one or more soils.

SOSM: State Offsite Methods, which consists of approved State procedures used to make wetland determinations and delineations on agricultural lands utilizing a variety of data, including aerial imagery, elevational tools, and resource inventory data.

Soil survey: the systematic examination, description, classification, and mapping of soils in an area.

State Executive Director: the FSA official, or his or her designee, in charge of FSA operations within a State

State Conservationist: the NRCS official, or his or her designee, in charge of NRCS operations within a State.

Soil loss tolerance (T): the maximum average annual soil loss expressed as tons per acre per year that will permit current production levels to be maintained economically and indefinitely.

USDA Service Center: a single location where customers can access local services provided by the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Rural Development agencies.

Wetland: land that-

  • Has predominance of hydric soils;
  • Is inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration enough to support a prevalence of hydrophytic vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions; and
  • Under normal circumstances does support a prevalence of such vegetation.

Wetland conservation (WC): the portion of the conservation provisions of the 1985 Food Security Act designed to remove incentives for the conversion of wetlands to agricultural production.

Wetland determination: a decision regarding whether an area is a wetland, including identification of wetland type and size.

Wetland enhancement: the alteration of an existing wetland to increase its specific functions and values.

Wetland restoration: the re-establishment of wetland conditions, including hydrologic condition or native hydrophytic vegetation, to an area where a wetland had previously existed.

Additional Information