The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently published its final rule on determining whether land is considered highly erodible or a wetland. This final rule follows a focused effort by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to improve consistency and use of science in making determinations. This follows an interim final rule that was published Dec. 7, 2018, after which comments were accepted. NRCS Acting Chief Kevin Norton told Southeast AgNet that feedback was a very important resource.
This final rule confirms most of the changes made by the December 2018 interim final rule and makes these additional updates:
- Adding the requirement of the 2018 Farm Bill that USDA will make a reasonable effort to include the affected person in an on-site investigation conducted prior to making a wetland violation technical determination.
- Further clarifying how wetland hydrology is identified for farmed wetlands and farmed wetland pasture.
- Adding clarification to the consideration of best-drained condition for wetland hydrology in keeping with the definition of prior converted cropland.
- Relocating the provision that wetland determinations can be done on a tract, field, or sub-field basis in order to improve clarity.
NRCS recently updated its conservation compliance webpages, adding highly erodible land and wetland determination resources for agricultural producers by state.
To be eligible for most USDA programs, producers must be conservation compliant with the highly erodible land and wetland provisions. These provisions aim to reduce soil loss on erosion-prone lands and to protect wetlands for the multiple benefits they provide.