View all text of Subpartb [§ 3831 - § 3835a]

§ 3831.
Conservation reserve
(a)
In general

Through the 2023 fiscal year, the Secretary shall formulate and carry out a conservation reserve program under which land is enrolled through the use of contracts to assist owners and operators of land specified in subsection (b) to conserve and improve the soil, water, and wildlife resources of such land and to address issues raised by State, regional, and national conservation initiatives.

(b)
Eligible land
The Secretary may include in the program established under this subpart—
(1)
highly erodible cropland that—
(A)
(i) if permitted to remain untreated could substantially reduce the agricultural production capability for future generations; or
(ii) cannot be farmed in accordance with a plan that complies with the requirements of subchapter II; and
(B) the Secretary determines had a cropping history or was considered to be planted for 4 of the 6 years preceding December 20, 2018, on the condition that the Secretary shall consider to be planted cropland enrolled in the conservation reserve program;
(2) marginal pasture land to be devoted to appropriate vegetation, including trees, in or near riparian areas, or devoted to similar water quality purposes (including marginal pastureland converted to wetland or established as wildlife habitat);
(3)
grasslands that—
(A) contain forbs or shrubland (including improved rangeland and pastureland) for which grazing is the predominant use;
(B) are located in an area historically dominated by grasslands; and
(C) could provide habitat for animal and plant populations of significant ecological value if the land is retained in its current use or restored to a natural condition;
(4)
cropland, marginal pasture land, and grasslands that will have a positive impact on water quality and will be devoted to—
(A) a grass sod waterway;
(B) a contour grass sod strip;
(C) a prairie strip;
(D) a filterstrip;
(E) a riparian buffer;
(F) a wetland or a wetland buffer;
(G) a saturated buffer;
(H) a bioreactor; or
(I) another similar water quality practice, as determined by the Secretary;
(5)
cropland that is otherwise ineligible if the Secretary determines that—
(A)
if permitted to remain in agricultural production, the land would—
(i) contribute to the degradation of soil, water, or air quality; or
(ii) pose an on-site or off-site environmental threat to soil, water, or air quality;
(B)
the land is a—
(i) newly-created, permanent grass sod waterway; or
(ii) a contour grass sod strip established and maintained as part of an approved conservation plan;
(C) the land will be devoted to newly established living snow fences, permanent wildlife habitat, windbreaks, shelterbelts, salt tolerant vegetation, field borders, or practices to benefit State or federally identified wellhead protection areas;
(D) the land poses an off-farm environmental threat, or a threat of continued degradation of productivity due to soil salinity, if permitted to remain in production; or
(E) enrollment of the land would facilitate a net savings in groundwater or surface water resources of the agricultural operation of the producer;
(6)
the portion of land in a field not enrolled in the conservation reserve in a case in which—
(A) more than 50 percent of the land in the field is enrolled as a buffer or filterstrip, or more than 75 percent of the land in the field is enrolled as a conservation practice other than as a buffer or filterstrip; and
(B)
the remainder of the field is—
(i) infeasible to farm; and
(ii) enrolled at regular rental rates; or
(7)
as determined by the Secretary, land—
(A) that was enrolled in the conservation reserve program under a 15-year contract that expired on September 30, 2017, or September 30, 2018;
(B) for which there was no opportunity for additional enrollment in that program; and
(C) on which the conservation practice under the expired contract under subparagraph (A) is maintained.
(c)
Planting status of certain land

For purposes of determining the eligibility of land to be placed in the conservation reserve established under this subpart, land shall be considered to be planted to an agricultural commodity during a crop year if, during the crop year, the land was devoted to a conserving use.

(d)
Enrollment
(1)
Maximum acreage enrolled
The Secretary may maintain in the conservation reserve at any one time during—
(A) fiscal year 2019, not more than 24,000,000 acres;
(B) fiscal year 2020, not more than 24,500,000 acres;
(C) fiscal year 2021, not more than 25,000,000 acres;
(D) fiscal year 2022, not more than 25,500,000 acres; and
(E) fiscal year 2023, not more than 27,000,000 acres.
(2)
Grasslands
(A)
Limitation
For purposes of applying the limitations in paragraph (1)—
(i) the Secretary shall enroll and maintain in the conservation reserve not fewer than 2,000,000 acres of the land described in subsection (b)(3) by September 30, 2023; and
(ii)
in carrying out clause (i), to the maximum extent practicable, the Secretary shall maintain in the conservation reserve at any one time during—
(I) fiscal year 2019, 1,000,000 acres;(II) fiscal year 2020, 1,500,000 acres; and(III) fiscal years 2021 through 2023, 2,000,000 acres.
(B)
Priority
In enrolling acres under subparagraph (A), the Secretary may give priority to land, as determined by the Secretary—
(i) with expiring conservation reserve contracts;
(ii) at risk of conversion or development; or
(iii)
of ecological significance, including land that—
(I) may assist in the restoration of threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.);(II) may assist in preventing a species from being listed as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.); or(III) improves or creates wildlife habitat corridors.
(C)
Method of enrollment
(i)
In general

In enrolling acres under subparagraph (A), the Secretary shall make the program available to owners or operators of eligible land on an annual enrollment basis with one or more ranking periods.

(ii)
Timing of grassland ranking period

For purposes of grasslands described in subsection (b)(3), the Secretary shall announce at least 1 ranking period subsequent to the announcement of general enrollment offers.

(D)
Reservation of unenrolled acres
If the Secretary is unable in a fiscal year to enroll enough acres of land described in subsection (b)(3) to meet the number of acres described in clause (ii) or (iii) 1
1 So in original. There is no cl. (iii) of subpar. (A).
of subparagraph (A) for the fiscal year—
(i) the Secretary shall reserve the remaining number of acres for that fiscal year for the enrollment of land described in subsection (b)(3); and
(ii) that number of acres shall not be available for the enrollment of any other type of eligible land.
(3)
Water quality practices to foster clean lakes, estuaries, and rivers (clear initiative)
(A)
In general

The Secretary shall give priority within continuous enrollment under paragraph (6) to the enrollment of land described in subsection (b)(4).

(B)
Sediment and nutrient loadings

In carrying out subparagraph (A), the Secretary shall give priority to the implementation of practices on land that, if enrolled, will help reduce sediment loadings, nutrient loadings, and harmful algal blooms, as determined by the Secretary.

(C)
Acreage
(i)
In general

Of the acres maintained in the conservation reserve in accordance with paragraph (1), to the maximum extent practicable, not less than 40 percent of acres enrolled in the conservation reserve using continuous enrollment under paragraph (6) shall be of land described in subsection (b)(4).

(ii)
Limitation

The acres described in clause (i) shall not include grasslands described in subsection (b)(3).

(D)
Report
The Secretary shall—
(i) in the monthly publication of the Secretary describing conservation reserve program statistics, include a description of enrollments through the priority under this paragraph; and
(ii)
publish on the website of the Farm Service Agency an annual report describing a summary of, with respect to the enrollment priority under this paragraph—
(I) new enrollments;(II) expirations;(III) geographic distribution; and(IV) estimated water quality benefits.
(4)
State enrollment rates
At the beginning of each of fiscal years 2019 through 2023, to the maximum extent practicable, the Secretary shall allocate to the States proportionately 60 percent of the available number of acres each year for enrollment in the conservation reserve, in accordance with historical State enrollment rates, taking into consideration—
(A) the average number of acres of all land enrolled in the conservation reserve in each State during each of fiscal years 2007 through 2016;
(B) the average number of acres of all land enrolled in the conservation reserve nationally during each of fiscal years 2007 through 2016; and
(C) the acres available for enrollment during each of fiscal years 2019 through 2023, excluding acres described in paragraph (2).
(5)
Frequency

In carrying out this subpart, for contracts that are not available on a continuous enrollment basis, the Secretary shall hold a signup and enrollment not less often than once each year.

(6)
Continuous enrollment procedure
(A)
In general
To the maximum extent practicable, the Secretary shall allow producers to submit applications on a continuous basis for enrollment in—
(i)
the conservation reserve of—
(I) marginal pasture land described in subsection (b)(2);(II) land described in subsection (b)(4); and(III) cropland described in subsection (b)(5); and
(ii) the conservation reserve enhancement program under section 3831a of this title.
(B)
Limitation
For purposes of applying the limitations in paragraph (1)—
(i) the Secretary shall, to the maximum extent practicable, enroll and maintain not fewer than 8,600,000 acres of land under subparagraph (A) by September 30, 2023; and
(ii)
in carrying out clause (i), to the maximum extent practicable, the Secretary shall maintain in the conservation reserve at any one time during—
(I) fiscal year 2019, 8,000,000 acres;(II) fiscal year 2020, 8,250,000 acres;(III) fiscal year 2021, 8,500,000 acres; and(IV) fiscal years 2022 and 2023, 8,600,000 acres.
(e)
Duration of contract
(1)
In general

For the purpose of carrying out this subpart, the Secretary shall enter into contracts of not less than 10, nor more than 15, years.

(2)
Special rule for certain land

In the case of land devoted to hardwood trees, shelterbelts, windbreaks, or wildlife corridors under a contract entered into under this subpart, the owner or operator of the land may, within the limitations prescribed under paragraph (1), specify the duration of the contract.

(f)
Conservation priority areas
(1)
Designation

On application by the appropriate State agency, the Secretary shall designate areas of special environmental sensitivity as conservation priority areas.

(2)
Eligible areas

Areas eligible for designation under this subsection shall include areas with actual and significant adverse water quality or habitat impacts related to agricultural production activities.

(3)
Expiration

Conservation priority area designation under this subsection shall expire after 5 years, subject to redesignation, except that the Secretary may withdraw an area’s designation if the Secretary finds that the area no longer contains actual and significant adverse water quality or habitat impacts related to agricultural production activities.

(4)
Duty of Secretary

In carrying out this subsection, the Secretary shall attempt to maximize water quality and habitat benefits in the watersheds described in paragraph (1) by promoting a significant level of enrollment of land within the watersheds in the program under this subpart by whatever means the Secretary determines are appropriate and consistent with the purposes of this subpart.

(g)
Multi-year grasses and legumes
(1)
In general

For purposes of this subpart, alfalfa and other multi-year grasses and legumes in a rotation practice, approved by the Secretary, shall be considered agricultural commodities.

(2)
Cropping history

Alfalfa, when grown as part of a rotation practice, as determined by the Secretary, is an agricultural commodity subject to the cropping history criteria under subsection (b)(1)(B) for the purpose of determining whether highly erodible cropland has been planted or considered planted for 4 of the 6 years referred to in such subsection.

(h)
Eligibility for consideration
(1)
In general

On the expiration of a contract entered into under this subpart, the land subject to the contract shall be eligible to be considered for reenrollment in the conservation reserve.

(2)
Reenrollment limitation for certain land
(A)
In general

Except as provided in subparagraph (B), land subject to a contract entered into under this subpart shall be eligible for only one reenrollment in the conservation reserve under paragraph (1) if the land is devoted to hardwood trees.

(B)
Exclusions
Subparagraph (A) shall not apply to—
(i) riparian forested buffers;
(ii) forested wetlands enrolled under subsection (d)(3) or the conservation reserve enhancement program under section 3831a of this title; and
(iii) shelterbelts.
(i)
Balance of natural resource purposes

In determining the acceptability of contract offers under this subpart, the Secretary shall ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, an equitable balance among the conservation purposes of soil erosion, water quality, and wildlife habitat.

(Pub. L. 99–198, title XII, § 1231, as added Pub. L. 107–171, title II, § 2101(a), May 13, 2002, 116 Stat. 238; amended Pub. L. 109–148, div. B, title I, § 107(a), Dec. 30, 2005, 119 Stat. 2750; Pub. L. 109–234, title III, § 3022, June 15, 2006, 120 Stat. 478; Pub. L. 110–28, title IV, § 4101, May 25, 2007, 121 Stat. 152; Pub. L. 110–234, title II, §§ 2101–2105, 2106(a)(2), (b)(1), May 22, 2008, 122 Stat. 1028, 1029, 1031, 1032; Pub. L. 110–246, § 4(a), title II, §§ 2101–2105, 2106(a)(2), (b)(1), June 18, 2008, 122 Stat. 1664, 1756, 1757, 1759, 1760; Pub. L. 112–240, title VII, § 701(c)(1), Jan. 2, 2013, 126 Stat. 2363; Pub. L. 113–79, title II, § 2001, Feb. 7, 2014, 128 Stat. 713; Pub. L. 115–334, title II, § 2201, Dec. 20, 2018, 132 Stat. 4530.)