The Secretary of Agriculture is authorized to formulate and carry out a program with owners and operators of land in the Great Plains area as described in section 590p(b) 1
To effectuate the purposes of the program, the Secretary may enter into an agreement for a two-year period with an owner or operator as described in subsection (a) whereby the owner or operator shall agree to devote to a soil conserving cover crop a specifically designated acreage of cropland on the farm up to 50 per centum of the acreage which had been planted to any soil depleting crop or crops in any of the two years preceding the date of the agreement. The agreement shall be renewable for annual periods thereafter subject to the mutual agreement of the owner or operator and the Secretary. In such agreement, the owner or operator shall agree (1) to plant a legume, or if not adapted to such area, an annual, biennial, or a perennial cover crop, as specified in the agreement; (2) to divert from production such portion of one or more crops designated by the Secretary as the Secretary determines necessary to effectuate the purpose of the program; (3) not to harvest any crop from or graze the designated acreage during the agreement period, unless the Secretary determines that it is necessary to permit grazing or harvesting in order to alleviate damage, hardship, or suffering caused by severe drought, flood, or other natural disaster, and consents to such grazing or harvesting subject to an appropriate reduction in the rate of payment; (4) to give adequate assurance, as specified by the Secretary, that the land was not acquired for the purpose of placing it in the program: Provided, That the foregoing provision shall not prohibit the continuation of an agreement by a new owner if an agreement has once been entered into under this section nor prevent an owner or operator from placing a farm in the program if the farm was acquired by the owner to replace an eligible farm from which he was displaced because of its acquisition by any Federal, State, or other agency having the right of eminent domain; (5) to forfeit all rights to further payments under the agreement and refund to the United States all payments received thereunder upon his violation of the agreement at any stage during the time he has control of the land if the Secretary determines that such violation is of such a nature as to warrant termination of the agreement, or to make refunds or accept such payment adjustments as the Secretary may deem appropriate if the Secretary determines that the violation by the owner or operator does not warrant termination of the agreement; (6) upon transfer of his right and interest in the farm, during the agreement period, to forfeit all rights to further payments under the agreement and refund to the United States all payments received thereunder unless the transferee of any such land agrees with the Secretary to assume all obligations of the agreement; (7) not to adopt any practice specified by the Secretary in the agreement as a practice which would tend to defeat the purposes of the agreement; and (8) to such additional provisions as the Secretary determines are desirable to effectuate the purposes of the program or to facilitate the practical administration of the program, including such measures as the Secretary may deem appropriate to keep the designated acreage from eroding and free from weeds and rodents in accordance with good conservation systems.
In consideration for such agreement, the Secretary shall make annual adjustment payments to the owner or operator for the period of the agreement at such rate or rates not in excess of $30 per acre as the Secretary determines to be fair and reasonable. The Secretary may use an advertising and bid procedure in determining the lands in any area to be covered by agreements and the payment rate therefor. The Secretary and the owner or operator may agree that the annual adjustment payments for the agreement period shall be made either upon approval of the agreement or in such installments as they may agree to be desirable: Provided, That for each year any annual adjustment payment is made in advance of performance, the annual adjustment payment shall be reduced by 5 per centum.
The Secretary may terminate any agreement under the program, by mutual agreement with the owner or operator, if the Secretary determines that such termination would be in the public interest, and may agree with the owner or operator to such modification of agreements as the Secretary may determine to be desirable to carry out the purposes of the program or facilitate its administration.
The Secretary may, to the extent the Secretary deems it desirable, provide by appropriate regulations for preservation of cropland, crop acreage, and allotment history applicable to acreage diverted from the production of crops to establish vegetative cover for the purpose of any Federal program under which such history is used as a basis for an allotment or other limitation or for participation in such program.
In carrying out the program, the Secretary shall utilize the services of local, county, and State committees established under section 590h of this title and the technical services of the Soil Conservation Service and soil and water conservation districts.
In case any producer who is entitled to any payment under the program dies, becomes incompetent, or disappears before receiving such payment, or is succeeded by another who renders or completes the required performance, the payment shall, without regard to any other provisions of law, be made as the Secretary may determine to be fair and reasonable.
The Secretary shall provide adequate safeguards to protect the interests of tenants and sharecroppers, including provision for sharing, on a fair and equitable basis, in payments under the program.
The Secretary shall prescribe such regulations as the Secretary determines necessary to carry out the provisions of this section.
There are authorized to be appropriated for the period beginning October 1, 1977, and ending September 30, 1981, such sums as may be necessary to carry out the program provided for in this section. The Secretary is authorized to utilize the facilities, services, and authorities of the Commodity Credit Corporation in discharging the Secretary’s functions and responsibilities under the program, including payment of costs of administration: Provided, That the Commodity Credit Corporation shall not make any expenditures for such purposes unless the Corporation has received funds to cover such expenditures from appropriations made to carry out this section.