has primary regulatory authority over wetlands related to agricultural
lands, The authority of the USDA/NRCS over wetlands is established by
provisions of the Natural Food Security Act and its subsequent amendments.
In much the same way the USF&WS provides oversight to the USACE for Section
404 regulations, the USDA/NRCS receives oversight assistance from the
USF&WS and the USEPA for the Swampbuster program (U.S. Department of Agriculture
The USDA/NRCS has the authority to enforce compliance with the Swampbuster
provisions of the NFSA by denying landowners eligibility for USDA benefits.
According to the National Food Securities Act Manual, persons are ineligible
to receive USDA benefits for any year in which they plant an agricultural
commodity on wetlands converted between December 23, 1985 and November
28, 1990, unless the converted wetlands have been mitigated. Persons who
convert wetlands after November 28, 1990 in such a way as to make the
production of an agricultural commodity possible, remain ineligible for
USDA benefits until the converted wetland is mitigated. Ineligibility
remains with the person even if he or she is no longer associated with
the land (U.S. Department of Agriculture 1996).
Exemptions In the same manner that the CWA exempts certain activities
from complying with the 404 program, the NFSA establishes a list
of criteria under which an activity may be exempted from complying
with the Swampbuster program. The following is a list of these exemptions:
- A proposed
wetland conversion activity may be exempted if the USDA/NRCS determines
it will have an insignificant effect on the functions and values of
the wetland and the wetlands in the area.
of wetlands by a county, drainage district, or similar entity
that have met specific conditions prior to December 23, 1985
are considered commenced, and therefore exempt.
assisted projects converting or providing outlets to convert
wetlands that have met specific conditions prior to December
23, 1985 are considered commenced, and therefore exempt.
of wetlands after November 28, 1990 are not in violation of
the Swampbuster program if the conversion activities which
make production possible are for purposes other than making
production possible and all other required provisions are
- A person
shall not be ineligible for USDA program benefits for converting
a wetland or producing an agricultural commodity on a converted
wetland if the action was based on an incorrect wetland determination
that was documented on specific Soil Conservation Service
(SCS) or NRCS forms. This exemption does not apply to wetlands
USDA/NRCS personnel determine are obvious and may not apply
to determinations based on incorrect information provided
by the person.
of wetlands converted after December 23, 1985 will remain
eligible for USDA/NRCS benefits provided the exemption is
filed before an agricultural commodity is planted on the converted
wetland, and the Farm Services Agency, in consultation with
the USF&WS, USACE and USDA/NRCS, determines a party other
than the one applying for USDA program benefits is responsible
for the conversion. If the Farm Services Agency determines
the conversion was part of a scheme or device to avoid the
Swampbuster provisions of the NFSA, the exemption will not
owners and operators of wetlands converted after December
23, 1985 will not be in violation as long as the converted
wetland is not planted to an agricultural commodity or used
for forage production (U.S. Department of Agriculture 1996).
categorizes wetlands according to NFSA exemptions. There are four
categories of wetlands subject to NFSA restrictions and three categories
of wetlands with NFSA exemptions. Each wetland classification includes
its own unique set of regulatory requirements. The following is a
list of the different USDA/NRCS wetland categories and a brief definition
Wetlands (W)-Areas meeting wetland criteria under natural conditions
that have typically not been manipulated by altering hydrology and/or
removing woody vegetation. This definition includes abandoned areas
(U.S. Department of Agriculture 1996).
Wetlands (FW)-Wetlands that were drained, dredged, filled, leveled,
or otherwise manipulated before December 23, 1985, for the purpose
of, or to have the effect of, making the production of an agricultural
commodity possible, and continue to meet specific wetland hydrology
criteria (U.S. Department of Agriculture 1996).
Wetland Pasture or Hayland (FWP)-Wetlands manipulated and used
for pasture or hayland, including native pasture and hayland, prior
to December 23, 1985 that still meet specific wetland hydrology criteria
and are not abandoned; or were in agricultural use and met FWP criteria
on December 23, 1985 (U.S. Department of Agriculture 1996).
Wetland (CW)-Wetlands drained, dredged, filled, leveled, or otherwise
manipulated for the purpose of, or to have the effect of, making possible
the production of an agricultural commodity. These lands must have
been W, FW, or FWP and not highly erodible prior to the conversion.
They may have been converted by any activity, including the removal
of woody vegetation, that impaired or reduced the flow, circulation,
or reach of water; provided the conversion activity was such that
agricultural production on the land would not have been possible without
its application (U.S. Department of Agriculture 1996).
Prior Converted Cropland (PC)-Converted wetlands where the
conversion occurred prior to December 23, 1985; an agricultural commodity
had been produced at least once before December 23, 1985; and as of
December 23, 1985, the converted wetland met certain specific hydrologic
criteria and did not support woody vegetation (U.S. Department of
and Irrigation-Induced Wetland (AW)-Wetlands in an area that was
formerly non-wetland, but now meets wetland criteria due to human
activities. This definition includes wetlands created by an irrigation
system on an area that was formerly non-wetland (U.S. Department of
(NW)-Land that under natural conditions does not meet wetland
criteria. This definition includes wetlands which were converted
to the extent that wetland criteria was not present prior to
December 23, 1985 but were not cropped (U.S. Department of Agriculture
Introduction | Section
404 Program |
Nationwide Permits & General Conditions
| Section 401 Program |Critical
Resource Waters | Swampbuster
Interagency Wetlands Policy Act of 1989
Rivers, Lakes & Streams Act
| Wetland Detmermination & Delineations
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