USDA Seeking Comments on Conservation Rules

USDA Seeking Comments on Conservation Rules

The US Department of Agriculture has released revised conservation practice standards, as well as updated rules for the Conservation Stewardship Program and is seeking input from the public on the proposals.

The proposed revisions to the conservation practice standards focus on 13 different practices: Contour Buffer Strips (Code 332), Dam, Diversion (Code 348); Deep Tillage (Code 324); Irrigation and Drainage Tailwater Recovery (Code 447); Irrigation Canal or Lateral (Code 320); Irrigation Ditch Lining (Code 428); Irrigation Field Ditch (Code 388); Irrigation Reservoir (Code 436); Land Clearing (Code 460); Obstruction Removal (Code 500); Surface Roughening (Code 609); Waste Treatment (Code 629); and Waterspreading (Code 640). Many of the changes simply update formatting and writing style. However, others expand practices to meet new industry standards for geosynthetic fabrics on buffer strips and ditch lining, recover tailwater or runoff from drainage water as well as irrigation water, enhance irrigation canal practices for pollinators and beneficial insects, improve air and water quality through waste treatment practices, and more. Details on the specific changes are available through the federal eRulemaking Portal (Docket ID NRCS-2019-0011) and comments on the standards can be submitted online or in writing until November 22.

On November 12, the Natural Resources Conservation Service released its interim final rule governing implementation of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Changes to the program include:

  • Increasing payment rates for adoption of cover crop rotations.
  • Introducing a new supplemental payment for advanced grazing management.
  • Creating one-time payment for developing a comprehensive conservation plan.
  • Providing specific support for organic and transitioning to organic production activities.

In addition, NRCS streamlined the program by basing contracts on funds not on acreage to align the program with how the Environmental Quality Incentives Program is implemented. The two programs will now also have common applications, contracting operations, conservation planning, conservation practices, and related administrative procedures

“We’re excited to roll out an updated Conservation Stewardship Program,” NRCS Chief Matt Lohr said. “We know the program is important to American farmers and ranchers, especially those who want to build on existing conservation efforts while strengthening their operations. These changes will result in greater efficiency in program delivery and reduced burden on producers.”

Comments on the proposed final CSP rule can be submitted online through (Docket ID NRCS-2019-0020) until January 13, 2020.

November 15, 2019