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Wetland Fact Sheet - Prior Converted Cropland

Background

The Swampbuster provision of the 1985 Farm Bill was aimed at reducing the conversion of wetlands for agricultural purposes. If you drain, fill, level, clear stumps or otherwise alter a wetland you will lose eligibility for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program benefits. 

Prior Converted Cropland Exemption

Areas that qualify as Prior Converted Cropland (PC) are exempt from the Swampbuster provision of the Farm Bill. These areas can be further drained, cropped or manipulated without loss of eligibility for USDA program benefits. Prior converted croplands that are certified by NRCS are also exempt from wetland regulations administered by the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA (Section 404 of the Clean Water Act). However, if the land changes to a non-agricultural use, or is abandoned, according to the criteria established by the Corps and EPA, it may be regulated under the CWA.

What it Takes for Farmland to Qualify as Prior Converted Cropland

Farmland must meet all of the following criteria for it to be designated as Prior Converted Cropland:

  • Cropped prior to December 23, 1985 with an agricultural commodity (an annually tilled crop such as corn);

  • The land was cleared, drained or otherwise manipulated to make it possible to plant a crop;

  • The land has continued to be used for agricultural purposes (cropping, haying or grazing)

  • The land does not flood or pond for more than 14 days during the growing season

Woodland, pasture and hayland without a history of annual tillage and cropping do not qualify as Prior Converted Cropland.

How to Get Your Land Designated as Prior Converted Cropland

Farmers can request a Certified Wetland Determination from their local NRCS office for areas they want to have designated as Prior Converted Cropland. This request must be in writing using  Form NRCS-CPA-38, Request for Certified Determinations. Determinations should be requested for any areas where manipulations such as draining or land clearing are planned.

NRCS will use a variety of tools such as cropping history records, aerial photography, maps and an on-site evaluation to determine if the area qualifies as Prior Converted Cropland.

Please contact your local NRCS office for further information. You can also visit us on the web at: www.vt.nrcs.usda.gov.

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