The U.S. Department of Agriculture 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.

The final rule follows an effort by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to improve consistency and use of science in making determinations. To be eligible for most USDA programs, producers must be conservation compliant with the highly erodible land and wetland provisions.

“Feedback is a very important, and we appreciate all of those who help us improve how determinations are made,” Missouri State Conservationist Scott Edwards said in a release. 

“The provisions aim to reduce soil loss on erosion-prone lands and to protect wetlands for the multiple benefits they provide,” Edwards said. 

The final rule was made available for public inspection Friday, and published Saturday in the Federal Register. This follows an interim final rule published Dec. 7, 2018.

The final rule confirms most of the changes made by the December 2018 interim final rule and makes the following updates:

— 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.

— Further clarifies how wetland hydrology is identified for farmed wetlands and farmed wetland pasture.

— Adds clarification to the consideration of best-drained condition for wetland hydrology in keeping with the definition of prior converted cropland.

— Relocates the provision that wetland determinations can be done on a tract, field or sub-field basis in order to improve clarity.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has recently updated its conservation compliance webpages, adding highly erodible land and wetland determination resources for agricultural producers by state.

Learn more about conservation compliance on the Natural Resources Conservation Service website.