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2014 Farm Bill Rules

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About Federal Rules

After legislation is passed by Congress and signed into law by the President, agencies publish rules in the Federal Register that explain how the legislation will be administered and implemented by the agency. 

Agencies such as NRCS can publish various kinds of rules depending upon whether the legislation needs to be implemented immediately or if public comment will be accepted prior to implementation of the regulations. 

NRCS conservation program regulations are required to be published as an “interim” rule which allows the regulations to be implemented immediately while allowing a period of time after publication for public comment.   NRCS considers and responds to these public comments when it publishes a final rule for the program.  
With the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, NRCS will be posting to this website the publication of rules to support new or revised program legislation such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), etc.

CSP | EQIP | ACEP | IFR Changes to Existing Programs | 7 CFR Part 12 Conservation Compliance

Conservation Stewardship Program

Summary of Changes in the CSP Interim Final Rule -back to top-

NRCS has issued an interim rule for implementation of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).  CSP helps agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems and adopt additional conservation activities to address priority resources concerns. Participants earn CSP payments for conservation performance—the higher the performance, the higher the payment. 

Congress made several changes to CSP in the 2014 Farm Bill that NRCS has incorporated into this interim rule.  Additionally, NRCS has made some minor changes to make the regulation easier to read, and more importantly, the program easier to understand by producers.  

The following list identifies some of the changes that are reflected in the CSP interim rule.  These changes primarily focus upon improving the competitive nature of the program, including raising the bar for the quality of projects enrolled and priority resource concerns to be addressed during the term of the CSP contract. 

Noteworthy Changes in the CSP Interim Final Rule

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A complete list of changes in the CSP IFR is available on the web or as a printer-friendly PDF.


CSP Interim Final Rule Public Comment Period Extended

NRCS welcomes public comment about these changes and other topics identified in the interim rule.  The official comment period has been extended to January 20, 2015.

See the public comment extension notice at 29982/conservation-stewardship-program- csp-interim-rule

View comments online at!documentDetail;D=NRCS-2014-0008-0001

Other CSP Links

2014 CSP Farm Bill page | CSP - Payment for Performance | CSP Civil Rights and Regulatory Impact Analyses


Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Summary of Changes in the EQIP Interim Final Rule-back to top-

USDA is incorporating changes mandated by the farm bill and is using this opportunity to address a few key discretionary provisions that have been raised by stakeholders, including, adding waiver authority to irrigation history requirements, incorporation of Tribal Conservation Advisory Councils where appropriate, and clarifying provisions related to Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMP) associated with Animal Feeding Operations (AFO).

Noteworthy Changes in the EQIP Interim Final Rule

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A complete list of changes in the EQIP IFR is available on the web or as a printer-friendly PDF.

View Comments On The EQIP Interim Final Rule on! documentDetail;D=NRCS-2014-0007- 0001

Other EQIP Links

2018 Farm Bill home page | EQIP Program Page

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program

Summary of Changes in the ACEP Interim Final Rule -back to top-

NRCS has issued an interim final rule for implementation of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). ACEP is a new easement program that consolidates three former easement programs – the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), and Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP). ACEP is composed of an Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) component and a Wetlands Reserve Easement (WRE) component.

The purposes of the ALE component are to protect the agricultural use and future viability and related conservation values, of eligible land by limiting nonagricultural uses of that land and to protect grazing uses and related conservation values. The purpose of the WRE component is to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands on eligible lands while maximizing wildlife habitat benefits.

The ACEP interim final rule provides the necessary provisions to allow NRCS to implement ACEP in fiscal year 2015. NRCS seeks comments on the interim rule and the definitions added for new terms introduced by the farm bill for ACEP.

Noteworthy Aspects of the ACEP Interim Final Rule

  • ACEP consolidates provisions from FRPP, GRP, and WRP into two primary components Agricultural Land Easements (FRPP and GRP purposes) and Wetland Reserve Easements (WRP purposes)
  • Requires that an eligible entity or owner of eligible land agree to comply with conservation compliance requirements before they are able to receive ACEP assistance.
  • Provides authority for modification, subordination, exchange, or termination of ACEP easements and easements enrolled under the predecessor programs.
  • Details the entity certification process for ACEP-ALE to add flexibility and encourage participation as a certified entity
  • Reduced the length of ownership requirement from 7 years to 24 months in ACEP-WRE and clarifies circumstances needed for a waiver of the ownership requirement
  • Provides the criteria to determine when to enroll lands in ACEP-WRE that are established to trees under the Conservation Reserve Program

A summary of changes in the ACEP IFR is available on the web or as a printer-friendly PDF.

View And Comment the ACEP Interim Final Rule on!documentDetail;D=NRCS-2014-0011- 0001

Other ACEP Links

2018 Farm Bill home page | ACEP homepage


IFR of NRCS Changes to Existing Programs

Summary of Changes in IFR of NRCS Changes to Existing Programs-back to top-

On August 1, 2014, NRCS published an interim final rule with request for comments in the Federal Register (79 FR 44635) that amended a number of agency regulations to implement mandatory changes made by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (the 2014 Act). The interim rule made the following changes to existing conservation program rules:

  • NRCS amended 7 CFR §610.24 to update the list of Title XII programs to which the State Technical Committee Rule applies.
  • NRCS amended the Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP) regulation to adjust the regulatory definition of “acreage owned by Indian tribes” to conform with the new statutory definition of the term in Section 502(e)(3) of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, as amended by Sec. 8203 of the 2014 Act.
  • NRCS amended the HFRP and the Watershed Operations regulation at 7 CFR part 622 to incorporate their status as programs used in the implementation of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
  • NRCS updated Subpart C of the Technical Service Provider rule at 7 CFR part 652 to designate the Deputy Chief for Programs as the decertification official for TSPs.
  • NRCS removed the regional equity rule, formerly at 7 CFR part 662, from the Code of Federal Regulations.
  • NRCS amended the rule for the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) at 7 CFR part 1455 to reflect the transfer of the program’s administration from the Administrator of the Farm Service Agency to the Chief of NRCS.
  • NRCS amended the rule governing the Agricultural Management Assistance Program (7 CFR Part 1465) to maintain consistency with the EQIP program.

NRCS solicited comments on the interim final rule for 60 days ending September 30, 2014. Six comments were received on the rule. Overall, the commenters supported the changes made by the interim rule. This final rule therefore makes only technical and clarifying changes to language adopted in the interim rule, and adds one additional mandatory change to reflect a change made by the 2014 Act to the Emergency Watershed Protection Program implementation of floodplain easements.

For the VPA-HIP, this final rule clarifies that tribal land that is operated, including leased land, by a person or legal entity qualifies as “privately-held” land and is thus eligible to be enrolled.

The mandatory change for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program incorporates the authority for easement modifications and terminations provided for in the 2014 Farm Bill.

Other Changes to Existing Programs Links

IFR of NRCS Changes to Existing Programs (PDF, 242KB)

See public comments on the IFR of NRCS Changes to Existing Programs

Final Rule, Changes to Existing Conservation Program Regulations

Changes to Existing Conservation Program Regulations on Federal Register website

7 CFR Part 12 Conservation Compliance

Summary of Changes in 7 CFR Part 12 Conservation Compliance -back to top-

This rule amends the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations that specify the conservation compliance requirements that participants in USDA programs must meet to be eligible for certain USDA benefits. The USDA benefits to which conservation compliance requirements currently apply include marketing assistance loans, farm storage facility loans, and payments under commodity, disaster, and conservation programs. The conservation compliance requirements apply to land that is either highly erodible land (HEL) or that is wetlands.

This rule amends the regulations to implement the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill) provisions that: make the eligibility for Federal crop insurance premium subsidy benefits subject to conservation compliance requirements; and convert the wetland mitigation banking pilot to a program and authorizes 10 million dollars for the Secretary to operate a wetland mitigation banking program. This rule specifies the conservation compliance requirements, exemptions, and deadlines that apply in determining eligibility for Federal crop insurance premium subsidy from the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC). This rule also modifies easement provisions relating to mitigation banks as specified in the 2014 Farm Bill, and clarifies provisions regarding the extent of agency discretion with respect to certain violations.

A pre-publication copy of the rule is available on the Federal Register website.

Other Conservation Compliance Links

Conservation Compliance homepage

Farm Bill home page