State Executive Director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Missouri, Edward Hamill, released a reminder today that in order to receive USDA program payments, landowners and operators are required to comply with Highly Erodible Land (HEL) and Wetland Conservation (WC) provisions. Compliance is required across the country in order to participate in USDA programs and the reminder is relevant for landowners and farmers in other states as well.

The reminder focuses on the cultivation of land that may have been in a woodlot, fence row, or the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

“Some producers may have decided to break out new land, clear trees, and other activities to bring land into crop production, including what was Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage” said Hamill. “This land needs to be reviewed to ensure any work will not jeopardize your eligibility for FSA program benefits now or in the future.”

Farmers with HEL determined soils are reminded to follow tillage, crop residue, and rotation requirements as specified in their conservation systems. Producers should notify FSA prior to conducting land clearing or drainage projects to ensure compliance.

Hamill said landowners and operators can complete form AD-1026 Highly Erodible Land Conservation (HELC) and Wetland Conservation (WC) Certification to determine whether a referral to Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is necessary.

“Something as simple as clearing a fence row or converting a pasture into cropland could result in losing USDA benefits,” added Hamill.

The reminder goes on to provide a brief explanation of Conservation Compliance Provisions.

Persons who produce an agricultural commodity on a field(s) where highly erodible land is predominate, are ineligible for benefits under the Highly Erodible Land Provisions (HELC) unless it has been determined by NRCS that a conservation system is being actively applied. This conservation system must be adequate for highly erodible land and will be based on the local NRCS technical guide.

Under the Wetland Conservation (WC) Provisions, persons are ineligible for benefits if they; plant an agricultural commodity on a wetland that was converted after December 23, 1985, or if they convert a wetland after November 28, 1990, by draining dredging, filing, leveling or any other means for the purpose, or to have the effect, of making the production of an agricultural commodity possible.

Much of the acreage that has been offered into CRP was eligible because the land was highly erodible. Producers should review their conservation plan or discuss their conservation systems with NRCS before former CRP acreage is converted back to agricultural production. If planting or field tillage has encroached into the boundaries of the CRP acreage, the contract is in non-compliance status and subject to termination or penalty.

For more information on Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation provisions, contact your local FSA county office or visit FSA online at www.fsa.usda.gov.

Even if a landowner does not receive USDA program payments its important for landowners to ensure compliance on leased farmland, not only for the conservation of productive soil, but also to ensure the land’s eligibility for future tenants. Farm lease forms typically include a provision that requires the tenant to maintain eligibility for USDA farm program payments. However, it may be prudent for the landowner to communicate with the tenant or monitor the land to ensure the provisions are followed.