16 U.S. Code § 3831 - Conservation reserve

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(a) In general
Through the 2018 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) of this section 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 of this chapter; and
(B) the Secretary determines had a cropping history or was considered to be planted for 4 of the 6 years preceding February 7, 2014 (except for land enrolled in the conservation reserve program as of that date);
(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 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, or filterstrips or riparian buffers devoted to trees, shrubs, or grasses;
(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; or
(5) 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.
(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 2014, no more than 27,500,000 acres;
(B) fiscal year 2015, no more than 26,000,000 acres;
(C) fiscal year 2016, no more than 25,000,000 acres;
(D) fiscal year 2017, no more than 24,000,000 acres; and
(E) fiscal year 2018, no more than 24,000,000 acres.
(2) Grasslands
(A) Limitation
For purposes of applying the limitations in paragraph (1), no more than 2,000,000 acres of the land described in subsection (b)(3) may be enrolled in the program at any one time during the 2014 through 2018 fiscal years.
(B) Priority
In enrolling acres under subparagraph (A), the Secretary may give priority to land with expiring conservation reserve program contracts.
(C) Method of enrollment
In enrolling acres under subparagraph (A), the Secretary shall make the program available to owners or operators of eligible land on a continuous enrollment basis with one or more ranking periods.
(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
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.
(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.

Source

(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.)
Codification

Pub. L. 110–234and Pub. L. 110–246made identical amendments to this section. The amendments by Pub. L. 110–234were repealed by section 4(a) ofPub. L. 110–246.
Prior Provisions

A prior section 3831,Pub. L. 99–198, title XII, § 1231,Dec. 23, 1985, 99 Stat. 1509; Pub. L. 99–500, § 101(a) [title VI, § 643], Oct. 18, 1986, 100 Stat. 1783, 1783–36, and Pub. L. 99–591, § 101(a) [title VI, § 643], Oct. 30, 1986, 100 Stat. 3341, 3341–36; Pub. L. 99–641, title II, § 205,Nov. 10, 1986, 100 Stat. 3563; Pub. L. 101–624, title XIV, §§ 1432(2), 1447 (a),Nov. 28, 1990, 104 Stat. 3577, 3605; Pub. L. 102–324, § 1(a),July 22, 1992, 106 Stat. 447; Pub. L. 103–66, title I, § 1402(b),Aug. 10, 1993, 107 Stat. 332; Pub. L. 104–127, title III, § 332(a)(1), (b),Apr. 4, 1996, 110 Stat. 994; Pub. L. 106–387, § 1(a) [title XI, § 1102(a)], Oct. 28, 2000, 114 Stat. 1549, 1549A–75; Pub. L. 107–76, title VII, § 758(a),Nov. 28, 2001, 115 Stat. 741, related to a conservation reserve program to be formulated and carried out by the Secretary through the 2002 calendar year, prior to the general amendment of this subpart by Pub. L. 107–171.
Amendments

2014—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 113–79, § 2001(a), substituted “2018” for “2012”.
Subsec. (b)(1)(B). Pub. L. 113–79, § 2001(b)(1), substituted “February 7, 2014” for “the date of enactment of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008”.
Subsec. (b)(2), (3). Pub. L. 113–79, § 2001(b)(2), (3), redesignated par. (3) as (2), added par. (3), and struck out former par. (2) which read as follows: “marginal pasture land converted to wetland or established as wildlife habitat prior to November 28, 1990;”.
Subsec. (b)(4)(C). Pub. L. 113–79, § 2001(b)(4), substituted “filterstrips or riparian buffers devoted to trees, shrubs, or grasses” for “filterstrips devoted to trees or shrubs”.
Subsec. (b)(5). Pub. L. 113–79, § 2001(b)(5), added par. (5) and struck out former par. (5) which read as follows: “the portion of land in a field not enrolled in the conservation reserve in a case in which more than 50 percent of the land in the field is enrolled as a buffer, if—
“(A) the land is enrolled as part of the buffer; and
“(B) the remainder of the field is—
“(i) infeasible to farm; and
“(ii) enrolled at regular rental rates.”
Subsec. (c). Pub. L. 113–79, § 2001(c), substituted “if, during the crop year, the land was devoted to a conserving use.” for “if—” and struck out pars. (1) and (2) which read as follows:
“(1) during the crop year, the land was devoted to a conserving use; or
“(2)(A) during the crop year or during any of the 2 years preceding the crop year, the land was enrolled in the water bank program; and
“(B) the contract of the owner or operator of the cropland expired or will expire in calendar year 2000, 2001, or 2002.”
Subsec. (d). Pub. L. 113–79, § 2001(d), amended subsec. (d) generally. Prior to amendment, text read as follows: “The Secretary may maintain up to 39,200,000 acres in the conservation reserve at any 1 time during the 2002 through 2009 fiscal years (including contracts extended by the Secretary pursuant to section 1437(c) of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (16 U.S.C. 3831 note; Public Law 101–624)). During fiscal years 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, the Secretary may maintain up to 32,000,000 acres in the conservation reserve at any 1 time.”
Subsec. (e)(2), (3). Pub. L. 113–79, § 2001(e), added par. (2) and struck out former pars. (2) and (3) which related to duration of contracts for certain land and 1-year extensions, respectively.
Subsec. (f)(1). Pub. L. 113–79, § 2001(f)(1), struck out “watershed areas of the Chesapeake Bay Region, the Great Lakes Region, the Long Island Sound Region, and other” before “areas of special”.
Subsec. (f)(2). Pub. L. 113–79, § 2001(f)(2), substituted “areas” for “watersheds” in heading and “Areas” for “Watersheds” in text.
Subsec. (f)(3). Pub. L. 113–79, § 2001(f)(3), substituted “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.” for “a watershed’s designation—” and struck out subpars. (A) and (B) which read as follows:
“(A) on application by the appropriate State agency; or
“(B) in the case of an area covered by this subsection, if the Secretary finds that the area no longer contains actual and significant adverse water quality or habitat impacts related to agricultural production activities.”
2013—Subsec. (d). Pub. L. 112–240substituted “2012, and 2013” for “and 2012”.
2008—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 110–246, § 2101, substituted “2012 fiscal year” for “2007 calendar year” and inserted “and to address issues raised by State, regional, and national conservation initiatives” before period at end.
Subsec. (b)(1)(B). Pub. L. 110–246, § 2102(1), substituted “the date of enactment of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008” for “May 13, 2002” and substituted semicolon for period at end.
Subsec. (b)(4)(C) to (E). Pub. L. 110–246, § 2102(2), in subpar. (C) struck out “or” at end, in subpar. (D) substituted “or” for “and” at end, and in subpar. (E) inserted “or” at end.
Subsec. (d). Pub. L. 110–246, § 2103, substituted “2009 fiscal years” for “2007 calendar years” and “(16 U.S.C.” for “( 16 U.S.C.” and inserted at end “During fiscal years 2010, 2011, and 2012, the Secretary may maintain up to 32,000,000 acres in the conservation reserve at any 1 time.”
Subsec. (f)(1). Pub. L. 110–246, § 2104, substituted “the Chesapeake Bay Region” for “the Chesapeake Bay Region (Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia)”.
Subsec. (g). Pub. L. 110–246, § 2105, amended subsec. (g) generally. Prior to amendment, text read as follows: “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.”
Subsecs. (h) to (j). Pub. L. 110–246, § 2106(a)(2), redesignatedsubsecs. (i) and (j) as (h) and (i), respectively, and struck out former subsec. (h) which related to pilot program for enrollment of wetland and buffer acreage in conservation reserve during 2002 through 2007 calendar years.
Subsec. (k). Pub. L. 110–246, § 2106(b)(1), renumbered subsec. (k) assection 3831a of this title.
2007—Subsec. (k)(2). Pub. L. 110–28substituted “The” for “During calendar year 2006, the”.
2006—Subsec. (k)(3)(G). Pub. L. 109–234substituted “$504,100,000” for “$404,100,000”.
2005—Subsec. (k). Pub. L. 109–148added subsec. (k).
Effective Date of 2013 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 112–240effective Sept. 30, 2012, see section 701(j) ofPub. L. 112–240, set out in a 1-Year Extension of Agricultural Programs note under section 8701 of Title 7, Agriculture.
Effective Date of 2008 Amendment

Amendment of this section and repeal of Pub. L. 110–234by Pub. L. 110–246effective May 22, 2008, the date of enactment of Pub. L. 110–234, see section 4 ofPub. L. 110–246, set out as an Effective Date note under section 8701 of Title 7, Agriculture.
Regulations

Pub. L. 106–387, § 1(a) [title XI, § 1105], Oct. 28, 2000, 114 Stat. 1549, 1549A–78, required the Secretary of Agriculture, as soon as practicable after Oct. 28, 2000, to promulgate regulations to implement the amendments by section 1 (a) [title XI] of Pub. L. 106–387, amending former sections 3831 and 3832 of this title.
Effect on Existing Contracts

Pub. L. 113–79, title II, § 2008,Feb. 7, 2014, 128 Stat. 720, provided that:
“(a) In General.—Except as provided in paragraph (2), the amendments made by this subtitle [subtitle A (§§ 2001–2008) of title II of Pub. L. 113–79, see Tables for classification] shall not affect the validity or terms of any contract entered into by the Secretary of Agriculture under subchapter B of chapter 1 of subtitle D of title XII of the Food Security Act of 1985 (16 U.S.C. 3831 et seq.) before the date of enactment of the Agricultural Act of 2014 [Feb. 7, 2014], or any payments required to be made in connection with the contract.
“(b) Updating of Existing Contracts.—The Secretary shall permit an owner or operator of land subject to a contract entered into under subchapter B of chapter 1 of subtitle D of title XII of the Food Security Act of 1985 (16 U.S.C. 3831 et seq.) before the date of enactment of the Agricultural Act of 2014 [Feb. 7, 2014], to update the contract to reflect the activities and uses of land under contract permitted under the terms and conditions of section 1233(b) of that Act [16 U.S.C. 3833 (b)] (as amended by section 2004 [of Pub. L. 113–79]), as determined appropriate by the Secretary.”
Study on Economic Effects

Pub. L. 107–171, title II, § 2101(b),May 13, 2002, 116 Stat. 252, provided that:
“(1) In general.—Not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this Act [May 13, 2002], the Secretary of Agriculture shall submit to the Committee on Agriculture of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry of the Senate a report that describes the economic and social effects on rural communities resulting from the conservation reserve program established under subchapter B of chapter 1 of subtitle D of title XII of the Food Security Act of 1985 (16 U.S.C. 3831 et seq.).
“(2) Components.—The study under paragraph (1) shall include analyses of—
“(A) the impact that enrollments in the conservation reserve program have on rural businesses, civic organizations, and community services (such as schools, public safety, and infrastructure), particularly in communities with a large percentage of whole farm enrollments;
“(B) the effect that those enrollments have on rural population and beginning farmers (including a description of any connection between the rate of enrollment and the incidence of absentee ownership);
“(C)(i) the manner in which differential per acre payment rates potentially impact the types of land (by productivity) enrolled;
“(ii) changes to the per acre payment rates that may affect that impact; and
“(iii) the manner in which differential per acre payment rates could facilitate retention of productive agricultural land in agriculture; and
“(D) the effect of enrollment on opportunities for recreational activities (including hunting and fishing).”
Study of Impact of Pilot Program

Pub. L. 106–387, § 1(a) [title XI, § 1104], Oct. 28, 2000, 114 Stat. 1549, 1549A–78, required the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct a study of the impact of the pilot program established under former section 3831 (h) of this title, as added by section 1 (a) [title XI, § 1102(a)] of Pub. L. 106–387, and to report on the results of the study to committees of Congress not later than Mar. 1, 2003.
Study of Land Use for Expiring Contracts and Extension of Authority

Pub. L. 101–624, title XIV, § 1437,Nov. 28, 1990, 104 Stat. 3584, required the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct a study of cropland subject to expiring conservation reserve contracts entered into prior to Nov. 28, 1990, and to report on the study to committees of Congress not later than Dec. 31, 1993, and authorized the Secretary, during calendar years 1996 to 2000, to extend up to 10 years contracts entered into under this subpart prior to Nov. 28, 1990, or to purchase long-term or permanent easements as provided for in part III of this subchapter, at the option of the owner or operator on land that the Secretary has determined under the study should remain in conserving uses.
Existing Conservation Programs

Pub. L. 99–263, Mar. 24, 1986, 100 Stat. 59, provided: “That the conservation reserve program shall not replace or reduce any existing conservation program.”

 

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