FAQ: What are my obligations regarding conservation compliance, so that I remain eligible for crop insurance and to receive USDA farm program benefits?
The Food Security Act of 1985 introduced conservation provisions to address soil erosion (Highly Erodible Land Conservation (HELC) and wetland conversion (WC). The 2014 Farm Bill continues these requirements to include linkage to eligibility for crop insurance premium support paid through the federal crop insurance program. Eligibility to participate in other USDA farm programs is also linked to conservation compliance.
John Whitaker is state executive director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Iowa. He provides the following answers to these commonly asked questions about compliance and reminds producers of their conservation compliance obligations.
Q) What is the purpose of conservation compliance (HELC and WC provisions)?
A) The purposes for HELC and WC compliance provisions are to:
•Reduce soil loss due to erosion
•Protect the nation’s long-term ability to produce food and fiber
•Reduce sedimentation and improve water quality
•Assist in preserving the values, acres and functions of the nation’s wetlands
Q) Who is subject to conservation compliance provisions and therefore required to have a form AD-1026 on file with FSA?
A) All persons seeking benefits under most programs administered by FSA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and all persons seeking premium support paid by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) are subject to conservation compliance provisions.
If you previously filed an AD-1026, it remains in effect and a new form does not need to be filed unless you are planning new conversion activities that have not been evaluated and as long as you are not currently in violation of any claims made on the previously filed AD-1026.
Q) Is compliance for federal crop insurance the same as compliance for federal farm programs?
A) Not necessarily. Conservation compliance for federal crop insurance does not mean automatic compliance or eligibility for federal farm programs.
For example, wetland compliance provisions for crop insurance compliance differ from farm programs like the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs.
There is a wetland conversion exemption. That is, eligibility for federal crop insurance premium support is not affected by wetland conversions that were completed, as determined by NRCS, before Feb. 7, 2014. However, this does not mean automatic eligibility or compliance requirements have been met for federal farm programs.
To be sure you are in compliance for both crop insurance and farm programs, producers should consult with FSA and NRCS at your local USDA Service Center.
Q) Who makes compliance determinations on highly erodible land (HEL) and Wetland Conservation (WC)?
A) USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service makes determinations on highly erodible and wetland classifications.
Q) By completing and submitting the AD-1026 form, what am I certifying?
A) By signing the AD-1026 form, you agree to all of the following on all land in which you and any affiliated person has an interest.
•NOT to plant or produce an agricultural commodity on highly erodible land or fields unless being farmed in accordance with a conservation plan approved by NRCS.
•NOT to plant or produce an agricultural commodity on a converted wetland.
•NOT to convert a wetland by draining, dredging, filling, leveling, removing woody vegetation or any other activity that results in impairing or reducing the flow and circulation of water in a way that would allow the planting of an agricultural commodity.
•NOT to use proceeds from any FSA farm loan, direct or guaranteed, or any USDA cost-share program in such a way that might result in negative impacts to a wetland, except for those projects evaluated and approved by NRCS.
Q) What is the penalty for knowingly falsifying compliance information on an AD-1026?
A) Producers who sign an AD-1026 certifying highly erodible and wetland compliance who know they are in fact not in compliance run the risk of incurring a false signature penalty for which USDA can assess upwards to $11,000 per signature.
Q) If I don’t participate in FSA or NRCS programs, am I required to have an AD-1026 form on file with FSA?
A) Yes, anyone who receives Risk Management Agency (RMA) crop insurance benefits must have an AD-1026 on file with FSA and comply with HEL and WC provisions whether they participate in other federal farm programs or not.