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Ensuring Your Farm Meets Conservation Compliance

Ed Cox May 7, 2015

June 1 is the deadline to be compliant with conservation requirements in order to be eligible for federal crop insurance premium subsidies and other USDA programs. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) just released a brief resource for checking to ensure your farm meets Conservation Compliance requirements. You can view the full resource on the NRCS website, and a brief summary is provided below.

Conservation compliance means complying with the requirements for highly erodible lands (HEL) and wetlands. Farmers who have HEL or wetlands must comply with requirements to be eligible to receive many USDA benefits, including loans, disaster assistance, federal crop insurance premium subsidies and conservation assistance.

1. Check whether Conservation Compliance applies to you.

Conservation compliance applies to any person seeking benefits from certain USDA programs, including Farm Service Agency (FSA) loans and disaster assistance, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and FSA conservation programs, and Risk Management Agency (RMA) federal crop insurance premium subsidies. If you’re seeking federal crop insurance premium subsidies for the 2016 reinsurance year, which runs from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, you must be in compliance by June 1.

If you grow commodity crops and you have wetlands or highly erodible land, you may need additional assistance from FSA and NRCS to meet conservation compliance provisions. Commodity crops include any crop planted and produced by annual tilling of the soil, including one-trip planters or sugarcane.

2. Check whether you are in compliance.

You must file form AD-1026 to initiate the compliance process. If you are uncertain whether you have previously filed the form, contact your local FSA office to see if you have the form on file and are in compliance with the provisions.

3. Complete form AD-1026.

Form AD-1026 is a compliance certificate used to:

  • Inform you of highly erodible land and wetlands requirements;

  • Certify compliance with those requirements;

  • Identify you and anyone else who needs to complete the form; and

  • Provide authorization for USDA representatives to service your determination request and check compliance.

Any person seeking a USDA program benefit must complete, sign and file form AD-1026 with FSA. Additionally, any affiliated person who has a separate farming interest must also complete, sign and file form AD-1026.When you file form AD-1026, you are certifying that you will not:

  • Plant or produce an agricultural commodity on highly erodible land without following an NRCS approved conservation plan or system;

  • Plant or produce an agricultural commodity on a converted wetland; or

  • Convert a wetland to make the production of an agricultural commodity possible.

Once the form is accurately completed and filed, it remains effective, and a person does not have to refile or update the form again, unless there are changes to the operation or new activities that occur that affect the person’s certification. The form is not specific to a particular crop. It covers all land that a producer farms.

If you have already filed form AD-1026 and are still in compliance, you have already met your filing requirement, and no further action is needed.

4. Comply, if needed.

If your land does need a highly erodible land or wetlands determination, FSA will forward your form AD-1026 to NRCS, the agency responsible for making determinations. Determining whether you have highly erodible land is a simple process based on soil types. Determining whether you have wetlands on your property is a bit more complicated. In many instances, a field visit is needed to look at the soils, plants and hydrology of the site in question.

If needed, NRCS will work with you to develop a conservation plan for protecting highly erodible fields. This plan describes the conservation practices that may be needed to control soil erosion on highly erodible fields.

If you have wetlands on your land, you have a number of options, including leaving the wet areas unaltered, enrolling the land in a voluntary conservation program if eligible, and mitigating for wetland losses.

5. Ensure your farm stays in compliance.

Ensure Your Farm Stays in Compliance: You remain in compliance by following the provisions of form AD-1026, any conservation plan you have, and any allowable wetland management options.

Learn More

Be sure to check out USDA’s conservation compliance webpage, which has frequently asked questions, fact sheets and many other resources.