Conservation provisions updated for highly erodible land areas

September 14, 2020

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently published its final rule on determining whether land is considered highly erodible or a wetland, integrating input from the public and making updates in accordance with the 2018 Farm Bill.

This final rule follows a focused effort by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to improve consistency and use of science in making determinations.

“Feedback is a very important resource, and we appreciate all of those who help us improve how determinations are made,” said 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.”

To be eligible for most USDA programs, producers must be conservation compliant with the highly erodible land and wetland provisions. These provisions aim to reduce soil loss on erosion-prone lands and to protect wetlands for the multiple benefits they provide.

This final rule follows an interim final rule published Dec. 7, 2018, and confirms most of the changes it made, with additional updates.

It adds 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. The final rule further clarifies how wetland hydrology is identified for farmed wetlands and farmed wetland pasture. It adds clarification to the consideration of best-drained condition for wetland hydrology in keeping with the definition of prior converted cropland. The rule relocates the provision that wetland determinations can be done on a tract, field or sub-field basis in order to improve clarity.

NRCS has recently updated its conservation compliance webpages, adding highly erodible land and wetland determination resources for agricultural producers by state.

For more information about conservation compliance, go to


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