What is "Swampbuster"
The Wetland Conservation provision (Swampbuster) of the 1985 and 1990 farm bills requires all agricultural producers to protect the wetlands on the farms they own or operate if they want to be eligible for USDA farm program benefits. Producers will not be eligible if they plant an agricultural commodity on a converted wetland that was converted by drainage, leveling, or any other means after December 23, 1985, or convert a wetland for the purpose of or to make agricultural commodity production possible after November 28, 1990.
What does §404 require?
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) requires a landowner to obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) prior to beginning any non-exempt activity involving the placement of dredged or fill material in waters of the United States, including wetlands. Certain ongoing, normal farming practices in wetlands are exempt and do not require a permit (see list of exempted activities). In order to be exempt, the activities cannot be associated with bringing a wet
land into agricultural production or convert
ing an agricultural wetland to a non-wetiand area.
What farming activities are exempt from §404?
Contact the Corps before undertaking these activities in wetlands and other waters of the United States to verify applicability of the exemptions.
- Established (i.e., ongoing), normal farming activities such as: plowing, harvestig, seeding, minor drainage, dultivating
- Maintainence, but not construction, of drainage ditches
- Construction and maintainence of irrigation ditches
- Construction and maintainence of farm or stock ponds
- Construction and maintainence of farm roads, in accordance with best management practices
How does the Swampbuster program relate to CWA §404?
Generally, areas subject to regulation under Swampbuster and CWA §404 are the same, but there are differences. Some activities that are exempted under Swampbuster may require a CWA Section 404 permit while some §404 permitted activities may be subject to Swampbuster. Before beginning any activity affecting a wetlands contact your local Corps district or Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office.
What is prior converted cropland?
Prior converted croplands (PC) are wetlands that were drained, dredged, filled, leveled, or otherwise manipulated, including the removal of woody vegetation, before December 23, 1985, to make production of an agricultural commodity possible, and that (1) do not meet specific hydrologic criteria, (2) have had an agricultural commodity planted or produced at least once prior to December 23, 1985, and (3) have not since been abandoned. Activities in prior converted cropland are not regulated under Swampbuster or CWA §404.
What happens if I don't farm my prior converted cropland and wetland conditions return?
If prior converted cropland is not planted to an agricultural commodity for more than 5 consecutive years and wetland characteristics return, the cropland is considered abandoned and then becomes a wetland subject to regulation under Swampbuster and CWA §404.
What are farmed wetlands?
Farmed wetlands (FW) are similar to prior converted cropland in that they were drained, dredged, filled, leveled, or otherwise manipulated before December 23, 1985, to make production of an agricultural commodity possible, but are often wet enough to still be valuable wetland habitat subject to Swampbuster and CWA §404. Farmed wetlands include potholes, playas, pocosins, and other manipulated and cropped areas that meet specific hydrologic criteria.
How do I know if I have wetlands, prior converted croplands, or farmed wetlands on my property?
To be sure about the status of wetlands on your farm, contact your local NRCS office. NRCS is the lead Federal agency responsible for wetland delineations on agricultural land for both Swampbuster and CWA §404. NRCS conservationists can also advise you on how to comply with Swampbuster. The Corps is the lead Federal agency responsible for wetland delineations on non-agricultural land for anyone who does not participate in USDA programs. For questions regarding CWA §404 provisions, contact your local Corps office. Call 1-800-832-7828 for phone numbers of your NRCS state office and Corps district.
1. USDA program participants are required to document their intent to manipulate wet areas on Form AD-1026 at the local USDA Consolidated Farm Service Agency office.
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