For many decades, farmers have agreed to practice basic conservation practices on designated vulnerable lands in return for receiving certain federal benefits. As a result, farmers have saved millions of acres of wetlands and kept billions of tons of soil on farms, ensuring that millions of acres of marginal, erosion-prone soil have remained healthy and productive.
It is critical that the conservation gains made over the years be maintained. To accomplish this, crop insurance premium subsidies have been reattached to conservation compliance.
Conservation compliance is a reasonable expectation in exchange for the significant benefits the public provides for producers. As direct payments are eliminated or reduced in favor of increased insurance support, the link between conservation compliance and federal subsidies to farmers must be maintained by including the crop insurance premium assistance from USDA.
Components of Conservation Compliance
Conservation compliance has two main components: Wetlands Conservation (WC) and Highly Erodible Lands Conservation (HELC).
HELC and 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
NRCS and FSA conservation program benefits
Federal crop insurance premium subsidies
The 2014 Farm Bill re-established the applicability of the HELC and WC provisions to crop insurance subsidies, but the Farm Bill did not change in how these were implemented in conservation programs.
5 Steps to Meet Conservation Compliance
To be eligible to receive many USDA benefits, including loans, disaster assistance, federal crop insurance premium subsidies and conservation assistance, you must comply with requirements for highly erodible lands and wetlands. The purpose of the conservation compliance provisions is to reduce soil loss on erosion-prone lands and protect wetlands. Use these steps to ensure you’re compliant.