To be eligible to participate in the conservation stewardship program, a producer shall submit to the Secretary for approval a contract offer that—
(1)demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Secretary that the producer, at the time of the contract offer, is meeting the stewardship threshold for at least one resource concern; and
(2)would, at a minimum, meet or exceed the stewardship threshold for at least 1 priority resource concern by the end of the stewardship contract by—
(A)installing and adopting additional conservation activities; and
(B)improving, maintaining, and managing conservation activities in place at the operation of the producer at the time the contract offer is accepted by the Secretary.
(b) Evaluation of contract offers
(1) Ranking of applications
In evaluating contract offers made by producers to enter into contracts under the program, the Secretary shall rank applications based on—
(A)the level of conservation treatment on all applicable priority resource concerns at the time of application, based to the maximum extent practicable on conservation measurement tools;
(B)the degree to which the proposed conservation treatment on applicable priority resource concerns effectively increases conservation performance, based to the maximum extent possible on conservation measurement tools;
(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 resource concerns, in addition to priority resource concerns, will be addressed to meet or exceed the stewardship threshold by the end of the contract period; and
(E)the extent to which the actual and anticipated environmental benefits from the contract are provided at the least cost relative to other similarly beneficial contract offers.
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 for evaluating applications to enroll in the program that the Secretary determines are necessary to ensure that national, State, and local conservation priorities 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 land to be covered by the contract.
(d) Contract provisions
A conservation stewardship contract shall be for a term of 5 years.
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(e) of this title;
(B)require the producer—
(i)to implement during the term of the conservation stewardship contract the conservation stewardship plan approved by the Secretary;
(ii)to maintain, and make available to the Secretary at such times as the Secretary may request, appropriate records showing the effective and timely implementation of the conservation stewardship contract; and
(iii)not to engage in any activity during the term of the conservation stewardship contract on the eligible land covered by the contract that would interfere with the purposes of the conservation stewardship contract;
(C)permit all economic uses of the 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; and
(E)include such other provisions as the Secretary determines necessary to ensure the purposes of the program are achieved.
(e) Contract renewal
At the end of an initial conservation stewardship contract of a producer, the Secretary may allow the producer to renew the contract for one additional five-year period if the producer—
(1)demonstrates compliance with the terms of the existing contract; and
(2)agrees to adopt new conservation activities, as determined by the Secretary.
The Secretary may allow a producer to modify a stewardship contract if the Secretary determines that the modification is consistent with achieving the purposes of the program.
(g) Contract termination
(1) Voluntary termination
A producer may terminate a conservation stewardship contract if the Secretary determines that termination would not defeat the purposes of the program.
(2) Involuntary termination
The Secretary may terminate a contract under this subpart 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 already received and assess liquidated damages.
(4) Change of interest in land subject to a contract
(A) In general
Except as provided in paragraph (B), a change in the interest of a producer in land covered by a contract under this part 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 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; and
(ii)the transferee meets the eligibility requirements of the program.
(h) Coordination with organic certification
The Secretary shall establish a transparent means by which producers may initiate organic certification under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C. 6501 et. seq.) while participating in a contract under this subpart.
(i) On-farm research and demonstration or pilot testing
The Secretary may approve a contract offer under this subpart that includes—
(1)on-farm conservation research and demonstration activities; and
(2)pilot testing of new technologies or innovative conservation practices.
The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, referred to in subsec. (h), is title XXI of Pub. L. 101–624, Nov. 28, 1990, 104 Stat. 3935, which is classified generally to chapter 94 (§ 6501 et seq.) of Title 7, Agriculture. For complete classification of this Act to the Code, see Short Title note set out under section
6501 of Title
7 and Tables.
The table below lists the classification updates, since Jan. 3, 2012, for this section. Updates to a broader range of sections may be found at the update page for containing chapter, title, etc.
The most recent Classification Table update that we have noticed was Tuesday, August 13, 2013
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