Monday, August 31, 2020

USDA finalizes and expands 'swampbuster' rules on farm wetlands conservation, dismaying Farm Bureau

On Friday the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service published its final rule on determining whether land is considered highly erodible or a wetland. In order to qualify for most USDA programs, farmers must be in compliance with these so-called "swampbuster" rules, first introducted in the 1985 Farm Bill, Ag Daily reports.

The final rule confirms most of the changes made in a 2018 Farm Bill interim rule and includes some additional updates, such as promising to make a reasonable effort to include the affected person in on-site investigations, Ag Daily reports.

Not everyone was happy with the updated rule, including the nation's largest general agriculture organization. American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall said in a press release that farmers are strong advocates of conservation, and they deserve clear rules and safeguards to ensure they're treated fairly when the NRCS determines conservation compliance. However, farmers "remain powerless" under the new rule, Duvall said.

During AFBF's annual convention in January, delegates agreed that repealing the swampbuster rules was a top lobbying goal for 2020. They wanted the USDA to better specify wetland designations and streamline the appeals process for producers found in violation of the rules.

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