Ask FSA Andy about conservation plans

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Hello friends,

School days, School days, Dear old Golden Rules days! This week found yellow school buses screeching to a stop to pick up children with overstuffed backpacks and a lunch box in their hand, excited for their first day of school.

As the bus pulled away, it found mom either wiping away a tear or jumping for joy because school is back in session.

At the school, teachers were anxiously awaiting the arrival of students who it will be their responsibility to educate during this next school year. The school year will start with a review to see what students have retained from the past.

Quiz time

Here at the FSA office, we feel like the teacher who is here to educate the producers and we sometimes have to conduct a review to see what you have retained from our past articles.

Let’s start with a short quiz.

1. What is highly erodible land?

Highly erodible land is any land that can erode at excessive rates because of its soil properties. Highly erodible land is designated by field and based on the proportion of the total field acreage that contains highly erodible soils. Determinations on what is highly erodible land are made by the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

2. What is a wetland?

A wetland is an area that:

  • Has predominance of hydric soils (wet soils);
  • Is inundated or saturated by surface or ground-water at a frequency an duration sufficient to support a prevalence of water tolerant vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions; and
  • Under normal circumstance supports a prevalence of such vegetation. Determinations on what is a wetland are made by NRCS.

These two terms — highly erodible land and wetlands — are important when it comes to complying with program provisions that make you eligible to receive USDA program payments or assistance.

Producers who participate in most programs administered by the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Risk Management Agency, are required to comply with Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation provisions. Non-compliance may affect the following types of USDA benefits:

  • FSA loans and disaster assistance
  • New farm bill programs administered by FSA, such as Agriculture Risk Coverage, Price Loss Coverage and Margin Protection Program for dairy producers.
  • NRCS and FSA conservation program benefits
  • Federal Crop Insurance premium subsidies — This is new! The 2014 farm bill links eligibility for any premium subsidy paid by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation on a policy or plan of federally reinsured crop insurance to compliance with Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation provisions. To comply with HELC/WC provisions producers must file an AD-1026 at their local Farm Service Agency.

On this form, the producer will be certifying they 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 that makes the production of an agricultural commodity possible.

In addition, producers planning to conduct activities that may affect their HEL or WC compliance, for example removing fence rows, conducting drainage activities or combining fields, must notify FSA by filing form AD-1026.

FSA will notify NRCS, and NRCS will then provide highly erodible land or wetland technical evaluations and issue determinations if needed. Some determinations can be time-consuming, so allow enough time between the filing of the AD-1026 and when you want to begin the work in the field. This is especially true when it comes to wetland determinations.

If you are a longtime FSA participant, may I suggest you find your conservation plan that you had done for your farm and review it to see if any changes need to be made. Changes can be made by a visit to your local NRCS office.

NRCS does perform spot checks to see if a producer is following their plan as written, so be sure your plan is up-to-date.

I thought this quote was appropriate for this week’s column. “The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.” – Herbert Spencer.

That’s all for now,

FSA Andy

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FSA Andy is written by USDA Farm Service Agency county executive directors in northeastern Ohio.

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