October 31, 2014
On Friday, October 31, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a revised certification document, known as an AD-1026 form, that will allow farmers who receive crop insurance premium subsidies to certify that they are in compliance with highly erodible land (HEL) and wetland conservation requirements, collectively known as “conservation compliance.” In conjunction with the release of the updated AD-1026 form, USDA published a 17-page frequently asked questions (FAQ) guide.
Conservation compliance requirements have existed for commodity, loan, and other programs since 1985; however, the 2014 Farm Bill expanded compliance to include federal crop insurance subsidies. Crop insurance subsidies had been unlinked from conservation compliance between 1996 and 2014.
Under conservation compliance, farmers who plant an annually tilled crop on highly erodible crop land must develop and implement a conservation plan for those acres. In addition, farmers cannot drain or fill wetlands on their land for the purpose of producing an annually tilled crop. The conservation requirements are jointly administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Risk Management Agency (RMA).
Producers can now begin the process of certifying their compliance by filling out the AD-1026 form and bringing the form to their local FSA office. The form must be delivered in person before June 1, 2015. Any producer seeking USDA programs benefits, such as price loss coverage or federal crop insurance, must certify with FSA. Producers who previously filed an AD-1026 form do not need to re-file, unless the producer is planning new planting activities or has been in violation of conservation compliance provisions.
NRCS is responsible for verifying whether farms include HEL or wetlands. In some cases, NRCS will use on-site determination methods, but for the most part, the agency will use off-site methods. NRCS will also conduct a limited number of compliance spot checks each year.
Between November and early December, USDA will train its own field staff from FSA, NRCS, and RMA on how to administer conservation compliance requirements for producers who are impacted for the first time by the changes that were made in the 2014 Farm Bill. According to the Department’s best estimates, between 5,000 and 7,000 farmers fit into this category, including specialty crop growers who receive crop insurance subsidies but have not previously participated in other USDA programs that are subject to compliance.
On December 6 or soon thereafter, RMA will send a notice to producers needing to file an AD-1026 form. NRCS and FSA will then begin educating producers about the requirements. NRCS will conduct HEL and wetland determinations after June 1. The agency will then work with producers to develop and implement their conservation plans for HEL.
USDA expects to publish its interim final rule for conservation compliance in February or March of 2015. NSAC helped develop and secure the new conservation compliance requirements in the 2014 Farm Bill, and will be submitting detailed comments on the rule.