Farmers must pay attention to conservation compliance

Environment
Farm and Food

Given this year’s spike in corn and soybean prices, commodity crop producers may be tempted to break ground on land not previously used for cash crop production. Before doing so, however, producers need to make sure they are following conservation compliance regulations to ensure important federal benefits are not at risk.

The 1985 farm bill set forth provisions to protect highly erodible lands (HEL). Commonly referred to as sodbuster provisions, these rules require producers to have an HEL determination made on ground planted to an annually tilled crop. If the land is determined highly erodible, a producer must farm the ground according to a conservation plan that will help reduce erosion and improve soil conditions. 

If a farmer fails to do so, they will be at risk of losing eligibility and access to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs, including Farm Service Agency (FSA) loans and disaster assistance, Natural Resources Conservation Service benefits, and federal crop insurance.

To avoid this loss of benefits and ensure conservation compliance, farmers are required to visit their local FSA office and file Form AD-1026. Those currently enrolled in USDA programs will already have this form filed, however, any operational changes affecting compliance will need to be reported as soon as possible. For example, planting an annual crop where an HEL determination has not been made will require an updated conservation plan.

The form also helps producers remain compliant with swampbuster regulations protecting wetlands.

For more information on conservation compliance, contact your local USDA Service Center. A list of local offices can be found at offices.sc.egov.usda.gov.