To be eligible to participate in the conservation stewardship program, a producer shall submit to the Secretary a contract offer for the agricultural operation that—
(1)demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Secretary that the producer, at the time of the contract offer, meets or exceeds the stewardship threshold for at least 2 priority resource concerns; and
(2)would, at a minimum, meet or exceed the stewardship threshold for at least 1 additional priority resource concern by the end of the stewardship contract by—
(A)installing and adopting additional conservation activities; and
(B)improving, maintaining, and managing existing conservation activities across the entire agricultural operation in a manner that increases or extends the conservation benefits in place at the time the contract offer is accepted by the Secretary.
(b) Evaluation of contract offers
(1) Ranking of applications
In evaluating contract offers submitted under subsection (a), the Secretary shall rank applications based on—
(A)the level of conservation treatment on all applicable priority resource concerns at the time of application;
(B)the degree to which the proposed conservation activities effectively increase conservation performance;
(C)the number of applicable priority resource concerns proposed to be treated to meet or exceed the stewardship threshold by the end of the contract;
(D)the extent to which other priority resource concerns will be addressed to meet or exceed the stewardship threshold by the end of the contract period;
(E)the extent to which the actual and anticipated conservation benefits from the contract are provided at the least cost relative to other similarly beneficial contract offers; and
(F)the extent to which priority resource concerns will be addressed when transitioning from the conservation reserve program to agricultural production.
The Secretary may not assign a higher priority to any application because the applicant is willing to accept a lower payment than the applicant would otherwise be eligible to receive.
(3) Additional criteria
The Secretary may develop and use such additional criteria that the Secretary determines are necessary to ensure that national, State, and local priority resource concerns are effectively addressed.
(c) Entering into contracts
After a determination that a producer is eligible for the program under subsection (a), and a determination that the contract offer ranks sufficiently high under the evaluation criteria under subsection (b), the Secretary shall enter into a conservation stewardship contract with the producer to enroll the eligible land to be covered by the contract.
(d) Contract provisions
A conservation stewardship contract shall be for a term of 5 years.
(2) Required provisions
The conservation stewardship contract of a producer shall—
(A)state the amount of the payment the Secretary agrees to make to the producer for each year of the conservation stewardship contract under section
3838g(d) of this title;
(B)require the producer—
(i)to implement a conservation stewardship plan that describes the program purposes to be achieved through 1 or more conservation activities;
(ii)to maintain and supply information as required by the Secretary to determine compliance with the conservation stewardship plan and any other requirements of the program; and
(iii)not to conduct any activities on the agricultural operation that would tend to defeat the purposes of the program;
(C)permit all economic uses of the eligible land that—
(i)maintain the agricultural nature of the land; and
(ii)are consistent with the conservation purposes of the conservation stewardship contract;
(D)include a provision to ensure that a producer shall not be considered in violation of the contract for failure to comply with the contract due to circumstances beyond the control of the producer, including a disaster or related condition, as determined by the Secretary;
(E)include provisions requiring that upon the violation of a term or condition of the contract at any time the producer has control of the land—
(i)if the Secretary determines that the violation warrants termination of the contract—
(I)the producer shall forfeit all rights to receive payments under the contract; and
(II)the producer shall refund all or a portion of the payments received by the producer under the contract, including any interest on the payments, as determined by the Secretary; or
(ii)if the Secretary determines that the violation does not warrant termination of the contract, the producer shall refund or accept adjustments to the payments provided to the producer, as the Secretary determines to be appropriate;
(F)include provisions in accordance with paragraphs (3) and (4); and
(G)include any additional provisions the Secretary determines are necessary to carry out the program.
(3) Change of interest in land subject to a contract
(A) In general
At the time of application, a producer shall have control of the eligible land to be enrolled in the program. Except as provided in subparagraph (B), a change in the interest of a producer in eligible land covered by a contract under the program shall result in the termination of the contract with regard to that land.
(B) Transfer of duties and rights
Subparagraph (A) shall not apply if—
(i)within a reasonable period of time (as determined by the Secretary) after the date of the change in the interest in eligible land covered by a contract under the program, the transferee of the land provides written notice to the Secretary that all duties and rights under the contract have been transferred to, and assumed by, the transferee for the portion of the land transferred;
(ii)the transferee meets the eligibility requirements of the program; and
(iii)the Secretary approves the transfer of all duties and rights under the contract.
(4) Modification and termination of contracts
(A) Voluntary modification or termination
The Secretary may modify or terminate a contract with a producer if—
(i)the producer agrees to the modification or termination; and
(ii)the Secretary determines that the modification or termination is in the public interest.
(B) Involuntary termination
The Secretary may terminate a contract if the Secretary determines that the producer violated the contract.
If a contract is terminated, the Secretary may, consistent with the purposes of the program—
(A)allow the producer to retain payments already received under the contract; or
(B)require repayment, in whole or in part, of payments received and assess liquidated damages.
(e) Contract renewal
At the end of the initial 5-year contract period, the Secretary may allow the producer to renew the contract for 1 additional 5-year period if the producer—
(1)demonstrates compliance with the terms of the initial contract;
(2)agrees to adopt and continue to integrate conservation activities across the entire agricultural operation, as determined by the Secretary; and
(3)agrees, by the end of the contract period—
(A)to meet the stewardship threshold of at least 2 additional priority resource concerns on the agricultural operation; or
(B)to exceed the stewardship threshold of 2 existing priority resource concerns that are specified by the Secretary in the initial contract.
2014—Pub. L. 113–79amended section generally. Prior to amendment, section related to stewardship contracts.
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The most recent Classification Table update that we have noticed was Tuesday, August 13, 2013
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