Conservation Compliance provisions in the farm bill require farmers to meet a minimum standard of environmental protection on environmentally sensitive land as a condition of eligibility for many Federal farm program benefits (including commodity and conservation program benefits or a Farm Service Agency loan).
Under the “conservation compliance” provision of the farm bill, farmers subject to the rules must implement and maintain an approved soil conservation plan on highly erodible land (HEL) that is currently in crop production and was cropped prior to 1985. Under the “sodbuster” provision, before producers clear, plow, or otherwise prepare HEL areas not presently under crop production for planting, they are required to develop and implement a conservation plan on the affected acreage that will limit erosion to not greater than the soil loss tolerance level, before bringing land into production. Under the “swampbuster” provision, farmers will lose program benefits if they fill or drain wetlands or expand the scope of existing drainage on farmed wetlands.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition successfully won some improvements to the conservation compliance provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill, including graduated penalties for HEL and wetland compliance violations. It will continue to fight to ensure that conservation compliance is re-linked to the crop insurance program so that taxpayer funds used each year to discount the cost to the farmer of this risk management program do not inadvertently increase or erosion or wetlands loss.