USDA Finalizes Rule for Highly Erodible Land and Wetlands

USDA Finalizes Rule for Highly Erodible Land and Wetlands

On August 27, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published an updated rule on determining whether land is considered highly erodible or a wetland. The agency integrated input from the public after an interim rule was published in December 2018 in accordance with changes made in the 2018 Farm Bill. The rule is intended to improve consistency and use of science in making determinations to ensure producers can remain eligible for USDA programs. The final rule confirms most of the changes recommended in 2018 and made a few additional updates, including:

  1. 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.
  2. Further clarifying how wetland hydrology is identified for farmed wetlands and farmed wetland pasture.
  3. Adding clarification to the consideration of best-drained condition for wetland hydrology in keeping with the definition of prior converted cropland.
  4. Relocating the provision that wetland determinations can be done on a tract, field, or sub-field basis in order to improve clarity.

“Feedback is a very important resource, and we appreciate all of those who help us improve how determinations are made,” said Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Acting Chief Kevin Norton. “Highly erodible land and wetland determinations are the gateway to USDA programs, and we strive to provide the highest quality technical assistance to inform decision-making by farmers and ranchers.”

NRCS has updated its conservation compliance webpages to provide new resources on highly erodible land and wetland determination resources for agricultural producers by state.

September 15, 2020