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2008 Farm Bill Side-By-Side

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Title II: Conservation

Field with a streamEmphasizes conservation on working land by increasing funding for Environmental Quality Incentives Program and new Conservation Stewardship Program (successor to the Conservation Security Program). Reduces Conservation Reserve Program acreage cap to 32 million acres beginning on Oct 1, 2009. Continues emphasis on wetland restoration and farmland preservation with expansion of Wetland Reserve Program, Farmland Protection Program, and Grassland Reserve Program.

List of Key Provisions:

keyCompliance Mechanisms

Highly Erodible Land Conservation (Conservation Compliance/Sodbuster) | Wetland Conservation (Swampbuster) | Crop Insurance and Noninsured Disaster Program Ineligibility

keyConservation Reserve and Wetland Reserve Programs

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) | Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)

keyWorking Land Programs

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) | Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) | Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) | Conservation of Private Grazing Lands (CPGL) | Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA) | Emergency Conservation Program (ECP)

keyTechnical Assistance (TA)

Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) | Delivery of Technical Assistance

keyAgricultural Land Preservation Programs

Farmland Protection Program (formerly Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, FRPP) | Grassland Reserve Program (GRP)

keyWatershed Programs

Chesapeake Bay Watershed Conservation Program | Small Watershed Rehabilitation Program | Resource Conservation and Development Program (RC&D) | Great Lakes Basin Program for Erosion and Sediment Control | Grassroots Source Water Protection Program | Desert Terminal Lakes | Conservation Corridor Demonstration Program

keyMarket-Based Incentives for Conservation

Promotion of Conservation through Environmental Services Markets

keyCross-Program Provisions

Regional Equity | Partnerships and Cooperation | Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program | Conservation Access | Streamlined Application | Incentives for Certain Farmers and Ranchers and Indian Tribes | Acreage Limitations | Compliance and Performance | Encouragement of Pollinator Habitat Development and Protection | Adjusted Gross Income Limitation

keyMiscellaneous Conservation Programs and Provisions

Privacy of Personal Information | Agricultural Conservation Experienced Service Program (ACES) | Amendments to Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act (RCA) of 1977 | Basin States Program

Browse A-Z List of Provisions  | Search the Side-By-Side:
Provision name:

Compliance Mechanisms can deny certain farm program benefits to producers who fail to meet applicable conservation requirements

 

Highly Erodible Land Conservation (Conservation Compliance/Sodbuster)

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

To maintain eligibility for certain farm program benefits, required producers to apply approved conservation system on highly erodible land in crop production. Secretary of Agriculture could not delegate authority to private person or entity to make compliance determination.

Retains provision.

If Secretary determined producers acted in good faith and without intent to violate the law, Secretary could allow up to 1 year to implement practices necessary to be considered "actively applying" approved conservation system. Secretary could impose penalties of $500 to $5,000, commensurate with seriousness of violation.

Determination of "good faith and without intent to violate the law" to be reviewed by USDA's State Executive Director (Farm Services Agency, FSA) with technical concurrence of State Conservationist (Natural Resources Conservation Service, NRCS) or by district director (FSA) with technical concurrence of area conservationist (NRCS). Secretary can impose penalties commensurate with seriousness of violation.

Wetland Conservation (Swampbuster)

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Producers who drained wetland to make it ready for crop production could be denied certain farm program benefits. Secretary could not delegate authority to private person or entity to make compliance determination.

Retains provision.

Secretary could waive person's ineligibility and allow up to 1 year to be actively applying practices to restore wetlands if Secretary determined that person had acted in good faith and without intent to violate the law.

Determination of "good faith and without an intent to violate the law" to be reviewed by USDA's State Executive Director (FSA) with technical concurrence of State Conservationist (NRCS) or by district director (FSA) with technical concurrence of area conservationist (NRCS).

Crop Insurance and Noninsured Disaster Program Ineligibility for crops grown on native sod. See Title XII, Program Administration and Integrity for crop insurance limitations and Other Risk Management Provisions for NAP limitations.

 
Provision name:

Conservation Reserve and Wetland Reserve Programs, including Conservation Reserve Program (general signup, continuous signup, CRP Farmable Wetlands Program, and Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) and Wetlands Reserve Program.

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) offers annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to farmers to establish long-term conserving covers (e.g., grass and trees) on eligible land. Contracts are for minimum of 10 years and maximum of 15 years.

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Capped CRP area at 39.2 million acres. As of April 2008, total enrollment was 34.7 million acres.

Authorizes program through fiscal year (FY) 2012. Caps program area at 32 million acres starting on Oct 1, 2009.

Program purposes now explicitly recognize "addressing issues raised by State, regional, and national conservation initiatives."

Land was eligible if it met 1 or more of following criteria:

  • Highly erodible cropland that was cropped in 4 of 6 years prior to 2002
  • could contribute to onsite or offsite environmental threat to soil, water, or air quality
  • was included in expiring CRP contract
  • was considered cropped wetland
  • was associated with or surrounding noncropped wetlands
  • was devoted to highly beneficial environmental practice (e.g., filter strips)
  • was subject to scour erosion
  • was located in national or State CRP conservation priority areas
  • was marginal pastureland in riparian areas

Certain marginal pastureland that was enrolled in Water Bank Program was also eligible.

Modifies eligibility requirements:

  • land cropped in 4 of 6 years prior to 2008 (rather than 2002)
  • alfalfa and other multi-year grasses and legumes in a rotation practice, approved by Secretary, are to be considered agricultural commodities
  • clarifies that alfalfa grown in approved rotation practice is to be considered an agricultural commodity and can be used to fulfill requirement that eligible land be cropped in 4-of-6 previous years

Secretary could have used different criteria in different States and regions for determining acceptability of CRP offers. Criteria were to be based on extent to which water quality or wildlife habitat could have been improved, erosion abated, or other environmental benefits provided.

Adds local preference criterion. To maximum extent practicable, program should accept offer from owner or operator who is resident of county (or contiguous county) where land is located, provided land provides at "least equivalent conservation benefits to land under competing offers."

Acreage limitations required no more than 25% of county's cropland could be enrolled in CRP and WRP. Limit could have been waived provided action would not adversely affect local economy, or if operators in county were having difficulties complying with conservation plans. About 100 counties exceeded the limit, typically by less than 5%.

Adds additional authority to waive cropland limit in cases limited to continuous or CREP enrollment provided that county government agrees.

Administrative changes allowed holders of CRP contracts set to expire during 2007-10 to opt to re-enroll or extend their contracts. Contracts with highest Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) scores could have been re-enrolled under new 10- or 15-year contracts. On contracts with lower EBI, holders could opt for extensions of 2, 3, 4, or 5 years.

Retains authority.

Rental payments authorized to be paid at amount necessary to encourage participation. FSA sets offer specific bid maximums based on available county average cropland rental rates, adjusted for field-specific agricultural productivity.

Requires Secretary to annually survey county average dryland and irrigated market rental rates.

Allowed managed haying and grazing (including harvest of biomass) and placement of wind turbines (with commensurate reduction in payment) at Secretary's discretion if consistent with conservation of soil, water quality, and wildlife habitat.

Adds new authority for routine grazing. Frequency of routine grazing is decided by local resource conditions. Adds prescribed grazing for control of invasive species as permissible activity.

No similar provision.

For trees, windbreaks, shelterbelts, and wildlife corridors, permits cost-share payments for thinning to improve condition of resources on the land. Authorizes $100 million in funding for FY 2009-12 for these cost share payments.

No similar provision.

Special treatment of CRP land transitioning from retiring farmer or rancher to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher includes:

  • beginning 1 year prior to contract termination date, allow new farmer or rancher to make land improvements and begin organic certification process
  • new farmer must develop and implement conservation plan
  • provide new farmer opportunity to enroll in Conservation Stewardship Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program
  • allow them to re-enroll certain partial field conservation practices
  • requires landowner to sell CRP land to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer on contract termination date
  • retiring farmer may receive up to 2 years of additional payments

Authorizes $25 million in funding for FY 2009-12 to facilitate these transitions.

CRP: General Signup for whole fields or whole farms.

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

General signup enrollment was competitive; applications were ranked for acceptance using EBI. Applicants could improve their EBI score by offering to accept annual payments below field-specific maximum rate, establishing land cover that was better wildlife habitat (e.g., mixtures of native grasses are better than monocultures), or waiving cost-share on cover establishment costs.

Retains authority.

CRP: Continuous Signup for high-priority practices.

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Counted acres enrolled under continuous signup toward overall CRP acreage cap. As of April 2008, continuous (non-CREP, non-FWP) signup enrollment was 2.7 million acres.

High-priority practices included riparian buffers, filter strips, and grass waterways. Since 2002, new practices eligible for continuous signup initiatives included Upland Bird Habitat, Bottomland Hardwood Trees, Longleaf Pine, and Prairie Pothole Duck Nesting habitat. Several wetland and floodplain practices that were no longer recognized in general signups could be enrolled in continuous signups.

Producers offering eligible acreage were enrolled without competition and at times other than designated signup periods. Moreover, annual payment/acre was over twice per-acre payment for whole-field or whole-farm general signup enrollments.

Most contracts involved only small proportion of field, but whole field could have been enrolled when more than 50% of field was eligible (for continuous signup CRP) and when farming was infeasible on remainder of field. Limited payments on remaining (noneligible) acreage to general signup rates.

Continues authority for continuous signup.

CRP: Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is joint State-Federal program that targets specific agriculture-related environmental problems that are significant at State or national level.

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

CREP operated administratively under general CRP program authority. Acres enrolled under CREP counted toward overall CRP acreage cap. As of April 2008, 1.1 million acres were enrolled in 31 States.

Enrollment included whole fields or partial fields with high-priority practices targeted to specific locations within designated CREP areas.

Producers offering eligible acreage could be enrolled without competition, at times other than designated signup periods, and at rates that were higher than maximum per-acre payment for general signup enrollment.

Continues authority for CREP.

CRP: Farmable Wetlands Program (FWP) allows enrollment of farmed wetland acres in CRP.

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Limited enrollment in this pilot program to total of 1 million acres (part of overall CRP acreage cap) and to 100,000 acres in any 1 State. State limits could be increased to 150,000 acres following review of enrollment by Secretary. As of April 2008, 180,000 acres were enrolled.

Extends program through FY 2012.

Upon review by Secretary, maximum acreage/State may be increased to 200,000 acres.

Limited eligibility to land that was cropped during at least 3 of immediately preceding 10 crop years, and contiguous buffer acreage used to protect the wetland.

Expands land eligibility to include:

  • land on which constructed wetland is to be developed that will receive flow from row-crop agriculture drainage system and is designed to provide nitrogen removal in addition to other wetland functions
  • land that was devoted to commercial pond-raised aquaculture in any year during calendar years 2002-07
  • intermittently flooded land provided land had cropping history in 3 years between 1990 and 2002 and was subject to natural overflow of prairie wetland

Expands buffer acreage to include land that enhances wildlife benefits (in terms of appropriate mix of upland and wetland, as determined by Secretary).

Wetland acres were to be enrolled through continuous signup similar to that for other high-priority conservation practices. Payments were commensurate with those provided to landowners who enroll filter strips in CRP continuous signup.

Retains provision.

On single tract of land, limited enrollment to 10 contiguous wetland acres and 30 acres of contiguous buffer.

Sets maximum of 40 contiguous wetland acres/tract. However, "flooded farmland" (that meets 1990-2002 cropping history test) to have 20-acre limit. Participants must refrain from commercial use of the land (newly added participant duty).

CRP: Emergency Forestry Conservation Reserve Program

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Established in 2006 (as part of Department of Defense, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations to Address Hurricanes in Gulf of Mexico, and Pandemic Influenza Act), program authorized $404 million for CRP pilot project for merchantable timber losses on private nonindustrial forests. Owners of land must have experienced loss of at least 35% of merchantable timber.

USDA selected producers for enrollment on continuous basis using benefit index for ranking offers. Periodically, FSA picked highest ranked offers for development of conservation plan and contract.

As of April 2008, 180,000 acres were enrolled.

Continues authorization for program.

Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) enables Secretary to purchase long-term or permanent easements and provide cost sharing to producers who agree to restore wetland on agricultural land. Restoring wetlands wildlife habitat is a priority.

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Capped WRP area at 2.275 million acres. Through FY 2007, 1.947 million acres were enrolled.

Raises WRP area cap to 3.041 million acres through FY 2012.

Wetlands could be restored through permanent easements, 30-year easements, restoration cost-share agreements, or any combination of these options. Easement payments were based on agricultural value of land prior to 2005. Subsequently, they have been based on market value of land.

Retains provisions. Adds 30-year contract for Indian tribes. Prohibits enrollment of land if ownership has changed during previous 7 years with certain exceptions.

Acreage limitations required total WRP and CRP acreage not exceed 25% of county's farmland acreage.

Retains and expands acreage limitations to require that in addition to overall cap, WRP easements are not to exceed 10% of county's farmland acreage.

Eligibility included farmed wetlands or land that was previously converted from wetland to farmland, and buffer acreage adjacent to wetlands. Lands converted from wetland to agricultural production after Dec 23, 1985, were not eligible for WRP enrollment.

Expands eligible land in WRP to include cropland or grassland that was used for agricultural production prior to flooding from natural overflow of closed basin lake or pothole.

Secretary determined acceptability of easement offers based on:

  • extent to which purposes of easement program would be achieved
  • productivity of the land
  • on-farm and off-farm environmental threats of using land for agricultural production

In addition, when evaluating landowner offers, Secretary may consider:

  • environmental benefits
  • cost-effectiveness with goal of maximizing benefits relative to costs
  • whether landowner offers to contribute financially to cost of easement

Consideration to be given to likelihood of success of easement, offsite environmental benefits, and damages avoided by wetland restoration.

For easements, compensation was not to exceed fair market value of land less fair market value encumbered by easement. Compensation could be provided in not less than 5, nor more than 30, annual payments of equal or unequal size, as agreed to by owner and Secretary.

Easement payments are not to exceed lowest of:

  • fair market value of land, as determined by Secretary using appraisal or area-wide market analysis or survey
  • geographical cap, as determined by Secretary
  • offer made by landowner

Easements greater than $500,000 are to be paid in 5 to 30 annual installments, unless Secretary grants waiver allowing lump-sum payment, to further purposes of program. Easements of less than $500,000 will continue to be paid in 1 to 30 installments.

Limits total restoration cost-share payments to $50,000 annually to an individual or legal entity, directly or indirectly.

No similar provision.

Creates Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program that allows States (including political subdivision or agency of State), nongovernmental organizations, or Indian tribes to partner with USDA in selection and funding of contracts, as long as selected contracts meet purposes of WRP. WREP includes pilot program that allows landowners to retain grazing rights when consistent with long-term wetland enhancement and protection goals.

No similar provision.

Requires Secretary to submit report, no later than Jan 1, 2010, that evaluates implications of long-term nature of easements on USDA resources. Report to include data on:

  • number and location of easements
  • assessment of impacts that oversight of agreements has on resources, including technical assistance
  • assessment of uses and values of agreements with partner organizations
  • any other information relevant to program costs and impacts
Provision name:

Working Land Programs, including Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, and others provide financial and technical assistance to improve conservation effort on lands in production.

 

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides technical assistance, cost-share payments, and incentive payments to assist crop and livestock producers with environmental and conservation improvements on land used for agricultural production.

Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

EQIP funding was $4.92 billion for FY 2002-07. Subject to Regional Equity provision.

Mandates Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funding of $7.325 billion for FY 2008-12. Subject to conservation access provision requiring 5% of funds be made available for beginning farmers and another 5% for socially disadvantaged producers. Continues to be subject to Regional Equity provision.

Purpose was to promote agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals and to optimize environmental benefits.

Revises purpose to "promote agricultural production, forest management, and environmental quality as compatible goals."

Nearly all types of agricultural land were eligible for EQIP, but 60% of funding was set aside for livestock producers. Eligibility of livestock farms was no longer limited by number of animal units.

Retains provision.

No similar provision.

Conservation practices related to organic production and transition are now eligible, but payments to producers or entities are limited to $20,000 annually and $80,000 over 6-year period.

Participants were required to develop conservation plan stating intended practices and describing environmental purposes. Confined livestock feeding operations also had to prepare comprehensive nutrient management plan.

Retains provision.

Contracts were for 1-10 years.

Contract length is unchanged.

Cost sharing for most structural and vegetative practices was at 50% rate, but cost sharing could be as high as 75% (90% for limited-resource or beginning farmer or rancher). Land management practices and comprehensive nutrient management plans were eligible for 3 years of incentive payments in amounts necessary to induce adoption.

Extends cost sharing to include land or forest management practices and development of conservation or comprehensive nutrient management plans. Limits payments for any practice to 75% of practice costs and 100% of income foregone from practice installation. Beginning, limited-resource or socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers are eligible for cost-share rates at least 25% above otherwise applicable rates (up to 90%) and advance payments of up to 30%.

EQIP payments were not subject to annual limit, but were limited to $450,000 for any individual or entity, directly or indirectly, during any 6 year period.

Limits EQIP payments in aggregate to $300,000/person or legal entity during any 6-year period. For projects of special environmental significance, Secretary may allow payments up to $450,000 during any 6-year period.

Criteria for ranking program applications included national conservation priorities and cost-effectiveness of practices. Removed provision that allowed applicants to be assigned higher priority if producer offered to accept lower payments ("bidding down" option) and precluded prioritizing on basis of least cost.

Additional ranking criteria include how comprehensively project addresses resource issues, and whether it improves or completes conservation system. To extent practical, similar crop and livestock applications are to be grouped for evaluation purposes. Maintains "bidding down" prohibition on prioritizing on basis of least cost.

Conservation Innovation Grants

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

EQIP funds could provide grants to stimulate innovative approaches to leveraging Federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection in conjunction with agricultural production. Grants were to be awarded on competitive basis, to governmental and nongovernmental organizations, Tribes, and other persons for innovative projects involving producers, such as market-based pollution credit trading, adoption of best management practices, and carbon sequestration. Capped Federal share of project cost at 50%.

Adds forest management as activity eligible for grant funds. Projects that increase conservation efforts by producers of specialty crops also eligible for funding. Federal share no longer capped at 50%.

Provides payments to producers using innovative technologies and cost-effective methods to address air quality. Sets aside $37.5 million of EQIP funds annually in FY 2009-12 for projects addressing air-quality concerns.

Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (formerly Ground and Surface Water Conservation (GSWC) Program)

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Provided $340 million in CCC funding for FY 2002-07 to be used for ground and surface water conservation. Included were cost-share payments, incentive payments, and loans for eligible water conservation activities.

Additional $61 million in CCC funding was allocated to water conservation activities in Klamath Basin.

Mandates $280 million in CCC funding for FY 2009-12. Expands purpose to include improving water quality on agricultural lands. In addition to signing contracts with individuals, Secretary can contract with partners including producer associations, State or local governments and Indian tribes to collectively address water quality or quantity concerns on regional basis.

Priority to be given to activities proposed by producers according to requirements under EQIP. Establishes criteria to be considered for prioritizing proposals from partners, and requires priority be given to partner proposals that include conversion of agricultural land to dryland farming, that provide some of their own funds, and that assist producers in States with water-quantity concerns, as determined by Secretary.

Payments to be in amounts sufficient to achieve program purposes. Payments can be made for 5 years under partner agreements in States with water-quantity concerns.

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) provides payments to producers for adopting or maintaining wide range of conservation management and land-based structural practices that address 1 or more resources of concern, such as soil, water, and wildlife habitat.

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Predecessor program was Conservation Security Program.

Replaces Conservation Security Program with new, but similar, Conservation Stewardship Program.

Existing Conservation Security Program contracts to continue as written, but no new contracts will be initiated after Sept 30, 2008. CCC funds, as necessary, to be available to fund these contracts.

Conservation Security Program funded through CCC as "capped" entitlement program, with program spending capped at $794 million for FY 2002-07. Limited annual enrollment to selected watersheds; total of 331 watersheds for FY 2002-07. If not all applications could be funded, applicants were ranked using category system based largely on producer stewardship.

Authorizes new Conservation Stewardship Program for FY 2009-12. Enrollment of acreage into program is authorized through FY 2017. Directs Secretary to enroll 12.77 million acres/year at average cost of $18/acre/year, including financial assistance, technical assistance, and other expenses. Subject to conservation access provision requiring 5% of acres be made available for beginning farmers and another 5% of acres for socially disadvantaged producers.

All cropland and grazing land was eligible for Conservation Security Program enrollment, except:

  • cropland must have been cropped in 4 of 6 years prior to 2002
  • land enrolled in CRP, WRP, or Grasslands Reserve Program was not eligible

All privately owned cropland and grazing land (including land under jurisdiction of Indian tribe) is generally eligible for enrollment, except:

  • cropland must have been cropped in 4 of 6 years prior to 2008 (except land in long-term rotation)
  • land enrolled in CRP, WRP, or Grasslands Reserve Program is not eligible

Nonindustrial private forest land incidental to agricultural operation is also eligible but cannot account for more than 10% of acres enrolled in any given year.

No similar provision.

Program acreage to be allocated to States based primarily on each State's proportion of total national eligible acres, but also taking into account;

  • extent of conservation needs in each State
  • degree to which CSP can help address these needs
  • other considerations in order to achieve equitable distribution of funds, as determined by Secretary

Producers could participate at 1 of 3 tiers. Higher tiers required greater conservation effort but offered larger payments.

  • Tier I: Producer had to address soil quality and water quality concerns on at least part of agricultural operation; contracts were for 5 years
  • Tier II: Producer had to address soil quality and water quality on entire operation and agree to address additional resource concern (e.g., wildlife habitat); contracts were for 5-10 years and could be renewed
  • Tier III: Producer had to fully address all resource concerns (e.g., soil quality, water quality, wildlife habitat, etc.) on entire operation; contracts were for 5-10 years and could be renewed

Requires producer contract offers to include all eligible land within farm. At minimum, contract offers must:

  • demonstrate that stewardship threshold is being met for at least 1 resource concern
  • agree to address at least 1 priority resource concern by end of stewardship contract

Contract offers to be ranked for program enrollment according to:

  • level of existing conservation treatment on all resource concerns present at time of CSP application, measured as much as possible using conservation measurement tools
  • level of proposed treatment of priority resource concerns, measured as much as possible by conservation measurement tools
  • number of priority resource concerns that would be addressed to stewardship threshold
  • extent to which other resource concerns would be addressed
  • extent to which environmental benefits are provided at least cost (although producers cannot improve their rank by offering to take lower payment)

All Conservation Stewardship Program contracts to be 5 years in length and can be renewed for 1 additional 5 year period if producer demonstrates compliance with contract terms and agrees to adopt new conservation activities, as determined by Secretary.

No similar provision.

Requires Secretary to establish means for producers to initiate organic certification while participating in new CSP.

Requires Secretary to ensure that outreach and technical assistance are available to organic and specialty crop producers and that program specifications are appropriate for participation of these producers.

Producers could receive 4 types of payment:

1) Annual Stewardship Payments based on tier level were percentage of local (county) average land rental for specific land use:

  • 1.25% for tier I
  • 5% for tier II
  • 11.25% for tier III

2) Annual Existing Practice Payments (for maintenance of existing practices) were 25% of Stewardship Payment.

3) New Practice Payments were up to 50% of cost of new conservation practices applied as part of CSP contract (65% for beginning and limited-resource producers).

4) Annual Enhancement Payments were based on adoption of additional conservation practices that:

  • enhanced resources beyond basic conservation standards or
  • addressed local resource concerns

Annual overall payments limits ranged from $20,000 (Tier 1) to $45,000 (Tier III). Additional limits applied to specific payments and payment components.

In Conservation Stewardship Program, payments to compensate producers for:

  • installing and adopting additional conservation activities
  • improving, maintaining, and managing conservation activities already in place
  • adoption of resource-conserving crop rotations

Payment amounts are to be based on:

  • cost of installing, adopting, or maintaining conservation activities
  • income forgone by producer
  • expected environmental benefits as determined by conservation measurement tools.

Payments cannot be made for expenses associated with animal-waste storage or treatment facilities or related waste transport or transfer devices for animal feeding operations.

Total CSP payments to any 1 person or legal entity cannot exceed $200,000 during any 5-year period.

Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) provides technical assistance and cost sharing for development and improvement of wildlife habitat.

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

WHIP expenditures for FY 2002-07 totaled $213 million. Subject to Regional Equity provision.

Reauthorizes WHIP through FY 2012 with CCC funding of $85 million/year. Continues to be subject to Regional Equity provision.

Contracts were generally 5-10 years in length, depending on practices installed. Shorter term agreements could be used to meet wildlife emergencies.

No change.

Up to 15% of available funding could be allocated for long-term agreements of 15 years or more that provide higher level of cost-share assistance to producer for lands with essential plant and animal habitat.

Increases funding cap on long-term agreements—providing higher levels of cost-share assistance for priority habitat land—to 25%.

No similar provision.

Priority may be given to projects that address State, regional, and national conservation initiatives.

No similar provision.

Limits individual annual payments under program to $50,000.

Restricts participation to private agricultural land, nonindustrial private forest land, and tribal lands.

Conservation of Private Grazing Lands (CPGL) authorizes technical and educational assistance for conservation and enhancement of private grazing lands, including sustainable grazing practices such as rotational grazing.

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Authorized appropriations of $60 million/year for FY 2002-07, although funding was never appropriated.

Authorizes program through FY 2012.

Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA) provides assistance to States found to be underserved by Federal crop insurance program.

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Provided $29.2 million in CCC funding for FY 2002-07. Producers in 15 designated States were eligible for financial assistance for range of risk reduction purposes, including practices that also protected natural resources through soil erosion control, integrated pest management, and organic farming.

Makes available up to $15 million annually in CCC funds for conservation programs. Level of producer interest in participating within the State is considered in determining specific funding allocations. Adds Hawaii to list of designated States where producers are eligible for financial assistance.

Allocates funding as follows:

  • 50% through NRCS for various conservation practices
  • 40% through Risk Management Agency for any risk-reduction activities
  • 10% for assistance in organic certification through USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service

Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) helps farmers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters.

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

For FY 2002-07, total of $363 million was allocated to producers through ECP.

Retains program.

Provision name:

Technical Assistance (TA) offers advice and services to producers who adopt conservation practices.

 

Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) provides technical advice and services to producers who adopt conservation practices without financial assistance from other USDA programs.

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

CTA funding was $4.14 billion for FY 2002-07.

Authorizes annual appropriations.

No similar provision.

Defines technical assistance to include expertise, information, and tools necessary for conservation of natural resources and land active in agricultural, forestry, or related uses.

Delivery of Technical Assistance in conjunction with other USDA conservation programs.

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Required Secretary to:

  • provide technical assistance for preparing conservation plans either directly or, at producer's choice, through payment to approved third party (Technical Service Provider or TSP) and
  • develop program for approving third-party providers; Secretary could also request services of non-Federal entities or enter into cooperative agreements or contracts with them to provide technical assistance

Requires Secretary to make technical assistance available to all USDA conservation program participants who are installing or adopting eligible practices. TA can be delivered directly (by USDA staff), through third party, or through producers (who hire certified provider). Provides mandatory funding, though CCC, for technical assistance associated with USDA conservation programs.

Allows Secretary to enter into multiyear agreements (1-3 year) with third-party providers of technical assistance. Requires Secretary to:

  • provide national criteria for certification of third-party providers
  • approve any unique certification standards established by States
  • review existing conservation practice standards to ensure completeness and relevance to local needs, including for specialty crops, native and managed pollinators, bioenergy crop production, and forestry

Technical Assistance for Organic Conservation Practices

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

No similar provision.

Requires Secretary to ensure, to maximum extent possible, that:

  • appropriate range of conservation practices and resource mitigation measures is available to specialty crop, organic, and precision agriculture producers
  • conservation-practice standards incorporate specialty crops and organic and precision agriculture
  • adequate technical assistance is available for implementing conservation practices for specialty crops and organic and precision agriculture
Provision name:

Agricultural Land Preservation Programs, including Farmland Protection Program and Grassland Reserve Program, provide financial and technical assistance to purchase long-term agreements or easements on farmland and grassland to protect it from conversion to other uses.

 

Farmland Protection Program (formerly Farm and Ranchland Protection Program) provides funds to eligible entities (State, tribal, or local governments and nonprofit organizations) to help purchase easements that would preclude nonfarm development of productive farmland.

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Provided $499 million in CCC funding for FY 2002-07. Subject to Regional Equity provision.

Mandates $743 million in funding for FY 2008-12. Continues to be subject to Regional Equity provision.

Program purpose was to protect topsoil by limiting nonagricultural uses of land. Eligible land explicitly included cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland, and incidental forest land that was part of agricultural operation. Farm had to contain at least 50% of soil that is prime, unique, or important locally or Statewide to be eligible.

Changes program purpose from focus on topsoil to protecting agricultural use and conservation values of land by limiting nonagricultural uses. Eligible land now includes forest land and other land that contributes to economic viability of agricultural operation or that serves as buffer from development.

Limited Federal share of easement cost to 50% of appraised fair market value of easement. Eligible cooperating entity could include, as part of its share of purchase price, donation by landowner of up to 25% of fair market value.

Continues Federal share cap at 50% of appraised fair market value of easement. Cooperating entity share must be at least 25% of purchase price; landowner donations contributed as part of cooperating entity share are no longer capped. Allows entity to designate terms and conditions for their deed and to choose appraisal methodology, subject to approval of Secretary.

Priority could not be assigned to applications solely on basis of lesser cost for applications that were otherwise comparable in achieving program purposes.

Retains provision.

Generally limited impervious surfaces to 2% of easement area but could be up to 6% under certain conditions.

Required highly erodible land to have conservation plan.

Allows eligible entities to specify limit on impervious surfaces.

Retains conservation plan requirement.

Easements were purchased by eligible entities, and Federal government purchased right to enforce easement if entity failed to do so.

Retains provision.

Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) assists owners, through long-term rental agreements or easements, in restoring grassland and conserving virgin grassland while maintaining areas for livestock grazing and hay production.

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Could have enrolled restored, improved, or natural grassland, rangeland, and pasture, including prairie.

Eligible land to also include grassland tracts containing historical or archaeological resources.

Could have enrolled up to 2 million acres during FY 2003-07, but CCC funding was limited to $254 million. For FY 2003-06, $217 million of CCC funding was provided. Subject to Regional Equity provision.

Authorized additional 1.22 million acres for enrollment during FY 2009-12. CCC funding is authorized, but not explicitly limited. Continues to be subject to Regional Equity provision.

Tracts had to be at least 40 contiguous acres. Waivers were available for smaller parcels in cases of exceptional acreage that met purposes of program.

No similar provision.

Could have enrolled eligible grassland under:

  • rental agreements of 10, 15, 20, or 30 years
  • 30-year or permanent easements or
  • easement for maximum duration allowed under state law

No longer authorizes 30-year rental agreements and 30-year easements.

Could have used up to 60% of funds for 30-year rental contracts or 30-year and permanent easements. Up to 40% was available for 10-, 15-, and 20-year contracts.

To extent feasible, 60% of funds are to be used for easements.

No similar provision.

Gives expiring CRP land priority, if land has high ecological value and is under significant threat of conversion to uses other than grazing. But this priority applies to no more than 10% of acreage enrolled in calendar year.

Under rental contracts, annual rental payments could not exceed 75% of grazing value. Permanent easements were purchased at fair market value, less grazing value. Easements of 30 years were purchased at 30% of fair market value, less grazing value.

Retains payment rate on rental contracts. Easement payments to be lowest of:

  • fair market value less grazing value
  • geographical cap determined by Secretary or
  • offer from landowner

Participants could receive cost sharing of up to 75% of restoration costs on restored grassland and up to 90% on virgin grassland.

No similar cap on payments.

Caps restoration cost shares at 50%.

Limits rental payments and restoration cost sharing (separately) to $50,000/person or legal entity/year.

Secretary could transfer easement ownership to State or local governments, Indian tribes, or eligible nongovernmental organizations for monitoring and enforcement of easement terms.

Retains provision. Secretary may also enter into cooperative agreements with State or local governments, Indian tribes, or eligible nongovernment organizations for monitoring and enforcement of easement terms.

Provision name:

Watershed Programs

 

Chesapeake Bay Watershed Conservation Program

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

No similar provision.

Mandates $188 million in CCC funding for FY 2009-12.

Secretary is to assist producers in implementing activities to improve water quality and quantity, and restore, enhance and preserve soil, air, and related resources in Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Conservation activities are to complement existing Federal and State programs.

Small Watershed Rehabilitation Program

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Provided CCC funding of $275 million and authorized appropriations of $325 million for FY 2003-07 for rehabilitation of water resource projects.

Actual funding was $29 million in FY 2003, $30 million in FY 2004, $27 million in FY 2005, and $31 million in FY 2006.

Provides CCC funding of $100 million for FY 2009 to be available until expended. Authorizes appropriations of $85 million/year for FY 2008-12.

Resource Conservation and Development Program (RC&D)

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Authorized appropriations of such funds as necessary.

Retains provision.

RC&D; councils helped communities access USDA technical and financial assistance to implement local plans, developed through planning process, to conserve and improve use of land, develop natural resources, and enhance social, economic, and environmental conditions.

Continues program.

In defining "planning process," specifies that planning processes must be "locally led."

Requires Secretary to designate coordinator for each council who is responsible for provision of all technical assistance.

Great Lakes Basin Program for Erosion and Sediment Control

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Secretary could carry out program of soil and sediment control involving project demonstration grants, technical assistance, and information/education programs to improve water quality in Great Lakes Basin.

Authorized appropriations of $5 million annually for FY 2002-07.

Retains provision.

Authorizes appropriations of $5 million annually for FY 2008-12.

Grassroots Source Water Protection Program

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Established national program to more effectively use onsite technical-assistance capacity of State rural water associations that operate wellhead or groundwater protection programs.

Retains provision.

Authorized appropriations of $5 million/year for FY 2002-07.

Increases authorized appropriations to $20 million/year for FY 2008-12.

Desert Terminal Lakes

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Required Secretary to transfer $200 million in CCC funds to Bureau of Reclamation to provide water for at-risk natural desert terminal lakes.

Requires Secretary to transfer $175 million in CCC funds to Bureau of Reclamation to provide water for at-risk natural desert terminal lakes.

Prohibited use of funds for purchase or lease of water rights.

When there are willing sellers, funds can be used to lease water or to purchase land, water appurtenant to the land, and related interests in Walker River Basin.

Conservation Corridor Demonstration Program

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Required establishment of conservation corridor demonstration program on east side of Chesapeake Bay in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Project was to demonstrate local conservation and economic cooperation using existing USDA conservation program funds on priority basis. State and local partners would have to provide 50% of funding.

Demonstration program not reauthorized.

Provision name:

Market-Based Incentives for Conservation

 

Promotion of Conservation through Environmental Services Markets

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

No similar provision.

Requires Secretary to establish technical guidelines for measuring environmental services from conservation and other land management activities. Specifically, requires Secretary to develop:

  • procedure for measuring environmental services benefits;
  • protocol to report these benefits;
  • registry to collect, record, and maintain information on benefits measured.

Priority to be given to establishing guidelines for participation in carbon markets.

Guidelines to be established for process to verify that farmer has implemented conservation or land management activities reported in registry. Role of third parties in verification to be considered.

Provision name:

Cross-Program Provisions

 

Regional Equity

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Required that each State collectively receive at least $12 million annually in conservation funds through Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Farmland Protection Program (FPP, formerly FRPP), Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP).

Requires each State collectively receive at least $15 million annually in conservation funds through EQIP, FPP, GRP, and WHIP. Level of producer interest in participating is consideration in determining specific funding allocations.

Partnerships and Cooperation

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

In carrying out any conservation program, Secretary could use program resources to enter into stewardship agreements with State and local agencies, Tribes, and nongovernmental organizations. Secretary could also designate special projects, as recommended by State Conservationist, to enhance technical and financial assistance to producers to address natural resource issues.

Special projects were to encourage:

  • producers' cooperation in installation and maintenance of practices that affect multiple agricultural operations
  • sharing of information and technical and financial resources among producers
  • cumulative conservation benefits in geographic areas
  • development and demonstration of innovative conservation methods

Requires Secretary to enter into competitively selected agreements with partners to address goals outlined in 2002 Farm Act. Funding and acres for agreements comes from allocations for each conservation program. CRP, WRP, FPP, and GRP are excluded from initiative. Up to 6% of included program funds can be used for initiative agreements, which if not used by April 1 of fiscal year can be used for other purposes in each program.

Allocation of funds:

  • 90% to State conservationists for agreements that address State issues
  • 10% for nationally competitive selection process

Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

No similar provision.

Provides grants to States and tribal governments to encourage owners and operators of privately held farm, ranch, and forest land to voluntarily make land available for public access for wildlife-dependent recreation, including hunting or fishing under programs administered by States and tribal governments.

Up to $50 million in CCC funds can be granted to State and tribal governments during FY 2009-12. Grant applications must describe intended benefits from encouraging public access to farm and ranch land for hunting, fishing, and other recreational purposes.

Priority to be given to program proposals that:

  • are likely to be broadly accepted among landowners
  • enroll land with appropriate wildlife habitat
  • strengthen wildlife habitat improvement efforts on land enrolled in special conservation reserve enhancement program by providing incentives to increase public hunting and other recreational access
  • use grant money in conjunction with other Federal, State, or tribal resources to carry out program
  • notify public of location of land enrolled

Grants to be reduced by 25% if opening dates for migratory-bird hunting in State are not consistent for residents and nonresidents.

Conservation Access

Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

No similar provision.

Instructs Secretary to use 5% of EQIP funds to assist beginning farmers and ranchers, and 5% for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. For CSP, 5% of available acres are to be made available for beginning farmers and ranchers, and 5% of acres for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

Funds or acres allocated but not used by certain date (to be determined by Secretary) can be used for any producers in the programs.

Streamlined Application

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

No similar provision.

Instructs Secretary to review application forms and processes for conservation programs to reduce complexity and redundancy, and to ensure all information collected about producers is necessary and not available from other sources.

Requires that information technology be used effectively to minimize data and information input requirements.

Instructs Secretary to submit written notification to Congress within 1 year of enactment that review has been completed.

Incentives for Certain Farmers and Ranchers and Indian Tribes

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Secretary could provide incentives for beginning farmers, limited-resource producers, and Indian tribes to participate in conservation programs. Incentives were to foster new farming and ranching opportunities and enhance long-term conservation stewardship.

Adds socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to those eligible for incentives.

Acreage Limitations

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Limited acreage that could be enrolled in CRP and WRP in any 1 county to 25% of county's total cropland. Limited total acreage of easements in WRP to 10% of county cropland. Limits did not apply to easements used for shelterbelts or windbreaks. Exceptions could be made if exceeding limits would not hurt local economy or if producers would otherwise have difficulty complying with their conservation plans.

Adds waiver to existing limitations for certain acreage if agreed upon with county government.

Compliance and Performance

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

No similar provision.

Requires Secretary to develop procedures to monitor compliance and performance for USDA conservation programs. Procedures must:

  • ensure compliance with program requirements,
  • measure program performance
  • demonstrate whether long-term conservation goals are being achieved
  • track participation by crop and livestock types
  • coordinate activities with national conservation program under Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act of 1977

Encouragement of Pollinator Habitat Development and Protection

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

No similar provision.

In carrying out conservation programs, Secretary may, as appropriate, encourage development of habitat for pollinators and use of conservation practices to benefit pollinators.

Adjusted Gross Income Limitation See Title I, Payment Limits and Income Eligibility, Attribution of Benefits.

 
Provision name:

Miscellaneous Conservation Programs and Provisions

 

Privacy of Personal Information relating to natural resources conservation programs.

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Information collected by Secretary for purpose of providing technical or financial assistance to producer through natural resources conservation program could not be considered public information nor be disclosed to any person or entity outside USDA, except to conservation programs.

Retains provision. However, Title I provisions on Information Gathering supersede this provision.

Agricultural Conservation Experienced Service Program (ACES)

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

No similar provision.

Establishes ACES program to engage people aged 55 and older to provide technical assistance in conservation programs. Secretary must contract with private nonprofit or other eligible organizations that hire participants to provide assistance. Workers hired under ACES cannot displace USDA employees. Program financed through funds for each conservation program, excluding funds from CRP, WRP, GRP, and CSP.

Amendments to Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act (RCA) of 1977

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

Directed Secretary to carry out continuing appraisal of soil, water, and related resources, including collection of extensive data on and analysis of natural resources and conservation needs.

Requires additional data on conservation plans, practices planned or implemented, environmental outcomes, economic costs, and related matters under conservation programs administered by Secretary.

Requires concurrent evaluation of Resource Conservation Act appraisal and evaluation of existing conservation programs emphasizing demonstration, innovation, and monitoring to encourage adoption of improvement and adoption of conservation practices and performance-based standards.

RCA appraisals to be completed no later than 2011 and 2016.

Basin States Program for salinity control activities.

 
Previous Legislation 2008 Farm Bill

No similar provision.

Amends Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act to create Basin States Program, which clarifies Bureau of Reclamation's authority in administering financial assistance for salinity control activities in Colorado River Basin.

For more information, contact: Roger Claassen or Cynthia Nickerson

Web administration: webadmin@ers.usda.gov

Updated date: November 14, 2008