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Title 7Subtitle BChapter XIVSubchapter BPart 1470 → Subpart A

Title 7: Agriculture

Subpart A—General Provisions

§1470.1   Applicability.
§1470.2   Administration.
§1470.3   Definitions.
§1470.4   Allocation and management.
§1470.5   Outreach activities.
§1470.6   Eligibility requirements.
§1470.7   Conservation activities.
§1470.8   Technical and other assistance.

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§1470.1   Applicability.

(a) This part sets forth the policies, procedures, and requirements for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) as administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), for enrollment during fiscal year (FY) 2019 and thereafter. Contracts entered into prior to FY 2019 will use the regulations and policies in effect prior to December 20, 2018.

(b) The purpose of CSP is to encourage producers to address priority resource concerns and improve and conserve the quality and condition of natural resources in a comprehensive manner by—

(1) Undertaking additional conservation activities; and

(2) Improving, maintaining, and managing existing conservation activities.

(c) CSP is applicable in any of the 50 States, District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands of the United States, American Samoa, and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

(d) NRCS provides financial and technical assistance to eligible producers.

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§1470.2   Administration.

(a) The regulations in this part will be administered under the general supervision and direction of the Chief, NRCS.

(b) No delegation in the administration of this part to lower organizational levels will preclude the Chief from making any determinations under this part, redelegating to other organizational levels, or from reversing or modifying any determination made under this part. The Chief may modify or waive a nonstatutory, discretionary provision of this part if the Chief determines the application of that provision to a particular limited situation is inappropriate and inconsistent with the purposes of the program.

(c) To achieve the conservation goals of CSP, NRCS will—

(1) Make the program available nationwide to eligible applicants on a continuous application basis with one or more ranking periods to determine enrollments. One of the ranking periods will occur in the first quarter of each fiscal year to the extent practicable.

(2) Establish a science-based stewardship threshold for each priority resource concern at the level of management required to conserve and improve the quality and condition of a natural resource. To the extent practicable, NRCS will use scientifically developed assessment tools and guides including, but not limited to, soil erosion prediction tools, wildlife habitat assessment tools, rangeland health assessments, and soil health assessments, to establish the stewardship threshold and measure the level of improvement once the participant applies additional conservation activities to meet or exceed a resource concern.

(d) NRCS will develop State-level technical, outreach, and program materials, with the advice of the State technical committee and local working groups, including:

(1) Establishment of ranking pools appropriate for the conduct of CSP within the State to ensure program availability and better distribution of the funds. Ranking pools may be based on watersheds, geographic areas, or other appropriate regions within a State and may consider high-priority regional and State-level priority resource concern areas;

(2) Identification of not less than five priority resource concerns in particular geographic areas or other appropriate regions within a State;

(3) Identification of resource-conserving crops that will be part of resource-conserving crop rotations; and

(4) Identification of combinations of grazing conservation activities that will be part of an advanced grazing management system.

(e) NRCS may enter into agreements with Federal, State, and local agencies, conservation districts, Indian Tribes, private entities, and individuals to assist NRCS with program implementation including, but not limited to, planning activities, outreach, and providing other forms of technical assistance.

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§1470.3   Definitions.

The following definitions will apply to this part and all documents issued in accordance with this part, unless specified otherwise:

Advanced grazing management means the use of a combination of grazing conservation activities, as determined by NRCS, which may include management-intensive rotational grazing, that provide for—

(1) Improved soil health and carbon sequestration;

(2) Drought resilience;

(3) Wildlife habitat;

(4) Wildfire mitigation;

(5) Control of invasive plants; and

(6) Water quality improvement.

Agricultural operation means all eligible land, as determined by NRCS, whether contiguous or noncontiguous that is—

(1) Under the effective control of a producer at the time of enrollment in the program; and

(2) Operated by the producer with equipment, labor, management, and production or cultivation practices that are substantially separate from other agricultural operations.

Applicant means a producer who has requested in writing to participate in CSP.

Beginning farmer or rancher means a person or legal entity who—

(1) Has not operated a farm, ranch, or nonindustrial private forest land (NIPF); or who has operated a farm, ranch, or NIPF for not more than 10 consecutive years. The requirement in this paragraph (1) applies to all members of a legal entity who will materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch.

(2) In the case of a contract with an individual, individually, or with the immediate family, material and substantial participation requires that the individual provide substantial day- to-day labor and management of the farm or ranch, consistent with the practices in the county or State where the farm is located.

(3) In the case of a contract with a legal entity or joint operation, all members must materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch. Material and substantial participation requires that each of the members provide some amount of the management or labor and management necessary for day-to-day activities, such that if each of the members did not provide these inputs, operation of the farm or ranch would be seriously impaired.

Chief means the Chief of NRCS, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), or designee.

Comprehensive conservation plan means a conservation plan that meets or exceeds the stewardship threshold for each priority resource concern identified by NRCS across all land uses included in the operation.

Conservation activities mean conservation systems, practices, enhancements, or management measures, as determined by NRCS, and may include—

(1) Structural measures, vegetative measures, and land management measures, including agricultural drainage management systems as determined by NRCS;

(2) Planning needed to address a priority resource concern;

(3) Development of a comprehensive conservation plan;

(4) Soil health planning, including planning to increase soil organic matter; and

(5) Activities that will assist a producer to adapt to, or mitigate against, increasing weather volatility.

Conservation district means any district or unit of State, Tribal, or local government formed under State, Tribal, or territorial law for the express purpose of developing and carrying out a local soil and water conservation program. Such district or unit of government may be referred to as a “conservation district,” “soil conservation district,” “soil and water conservation district,” “resource conservation district,” “land conservation committee,” “natural resource district,” or similar name.

Conservation practice means a specified treatment, such as a structural, vegetative, or management technique commonly used to meet a specific need in planning and carrying out conservation programs for which standards and specifications have been developed. Conservation practices are in the Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG).

Conservation stewardship plan means a plan developed in accordance with the requirements of §1470.22.

Conservation system means a combination of conservation practices, management measures, and enhancements used to address natural resource and environmental concerns in a comprehensive, holistic, and integrated manner.

Contract means a legal document that specifies the rights and obligations of any participant who has been accepted into the program. A CSP contract is a binding agreement under this part for the transfer of assistance from NRCS to the participant for installing, adopting, improving, managing, and maintaining conservation activities.

Effective control means possession of the land by ownership, written lease, or other legal agreement and authority to act as decision maker for the day-to-day management of the operation both at the time the applicant enters into a stewardship contract and for the duration of the contract.

Eligible land means:

(1) Private and Tribal land upon which:

(i) Agricultural commodities, livestock, or forest-related products are produced; and

(ii) Priority resource concerns could be addressed through a contract under the program. Eligible land includes cropland, grassland, rangeland, pastureland, nonindustrial private forest land, and other agricultural lands including cropped woodland, marshes, and agricultural land used or capable of being used for the production of livestock as determined by the Chief; and

(2) Publicly owned land where the—

(i) Land is associated with the land described in paragraph (1) of this definition and is a working component of the producer's agricultural or forestry operation;

(ii) Producer has control of the land for the term of the contract; and

(iii) Conservation activities the producer will implement on the public land are necessary and will address an identified priority resource concern.

Enhancement means a type of conservation activity used to treat natural resources and improve conservation performance. Enhancements are equal to or greater than the performance level for the planning criteria identified for a given resource concern. Planning criteria are defined for each resource concern in Section III—Conservation Management Systems, Field Office Technical Guide.

Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG) means the official local NRCS source of resource information and interpretations of guidelines, planning criteria, and standards for planning and implementation of conservation practices. The FOTG contains detailed information on the planning standard to achieve conservation of soil, water, air, plant, energy, and animal resources applicable to the local area for which it is prepared. (See https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/technical/fotg/ to access your State FOTG.)

Historically underserved producer means a person, joint operation, legal entity, or Indian Tribe who is a beginning farmer or rancher, socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher, limited resource farmer or rancher, or veteran farmer or rancher.

Indian lands mean land held in trust by the United States for individual Indians or Indian Tribes, or all land titles held by individual Indians or Tribes, subject to Federal restrictions against alienation or encumbrance, or land which is subject to the rights of use, occupancy, and/or benefit of certain Indian Tribes. This term also includes lands for which the title is held in fee status by an Indian, Indian family, or Indian Tribe.

Indian Tribe means any Indian Tribe, band, nation, pueblo, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.), which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.

Joint operation means, as defined in 7 CFR part 1400, a general partnership, joint venture, or other similar business organization in which the members are jointly and severally liable for the obligations of the organization.

Legal entity means, as defined in 7 CFR part 1400, an entity created under Federal or State law that owns land or an agricultural commodity, product, or livestock; or produces an agricultural commodity, product, or livestock.

Limited resource farmer or rancher means:

(1) A person with direct or indirect gross farm sales not more than the current indexed value in each of the previous 2 fiscal years (adjusted for inflation using Prices Paid by Farmer Index as compiled by the National Agricultural Statistical Service); and

(2) Has a total household income at or below the national poverty level for a family of four, or less than 50 percent of county median household income in each of the previous 2 years (to be determined annually using Department of Commerce Data).

(3) A limited resource farmer or rancher also includes a legal entity or joint operation if all individual members independently qualify under paragraphs (1) and (2) of this definition.

Liquidated damages means a sum of money stipulated in the CSP contract that the participant agrees to pay NRCS if the participant fails to fulfill the terms of the contract. The sum represents an estimate of the technical assistance expenses incurred to service the contract and reflects the difficulties of proof of loss and the inconvenience or nonfeasibility of otherwise obtaining an adequate remedy.

Management-intensive rotational grazing means a strategic, adaptively managed multipasture grazing system in which animals are regularly and systematically moved to a fresh pasture in a manner that, as determined by NRCS:

(1) Maximizes the quantity and quality of forage growth;

(2) Improves manure distribution and nutrient cycling;

(3) Increases carbon sequestration from greater forage harvest;

(4) Improves the quality and quantity of cover for wildlife;

(5) Provides permanent cover to protect the soil from erosion; and

(6) Improves water quality.

Management measure means one or more specific actions that is not a conservation practice, but which has the effect of alleviating problems or improving the treatment of the natural resources.

National Organic Program means the program established under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C. 6501 et seq.), administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service, which regulates the standards for any farm, wild crop harvesting, or handling operation that wants to market an agricultural product as organically produced.

Natural Resources Conservation Service means an agency of USDA which has responsibility for administering CSP using the funds, facilities, and authorities of the Commodity Credit Corporation.

Nonindustrial private forest land means rural land, as determined by NRCS, that has existing tree cover or is suitable for growing trees, and is owned by any nonindustrial private individual, group, association, corporation, Indian Tribe, or other private legal entity that has definitive decision-making authority over the land.

Operation and maintenance means work performed by the participant to maintain existing conservation activities to at least the level of conservation performance identified at the time of enrollment, and maintain additional conservation activities installed and adopted over the contract period. Operation includes the administration, management, and performance of nonmaintenance actions needed to keep the completed activity functioning as intended. Maintenance includes work to prevent deterioration of the activity, repairing damage, and replacement or restoration of the activity to its original condition if one or more components fail.

Participant means a producer that has applied for participation and has entered into a CSP contract and is receiving payment or is responsible for implementing the terms and conditions of a CSP contract.

Payment means financial assistance provided to the participant under the terms of the CSP contract.

Person means, as defined in 7 CFR part 1400, an individual, natural person and does not include a legal entity.

Priority resource concern means a natural resource concern or problem, as determined by NRCS, that is likely to be addressed successfully through implementation of conservation activities under this program.

Producer means a person, legal entity, joint operation, or Indian Tribe who either has an interest in the agricultural operation or who NRCS determines is engaged in agricultural production or forestry management on the agricultural operation.

Resource-conserving crop means a crop that is one of the following, as determined by NRCS:

(1) A perennial grass;

(2) A legume grown for use as forage, seed for planting, or green manure;

(3) A legume-grass mixture; or

(4) A small grain or other resource-demanding crop grown in combination with a grass, legume, forbs, grass-forbs mixture, whether interseeded or planted in rotation.

Resource-conserving crop rotation means a crop rotation that—

(1) Includes at least one resource-conserving crop as determined by NRCS;

(2) Reduces erosion;

(3) Improves soil fertility and tilth;

(4) Interrupts pest cycles;

(5) Builds soil organic matter; and

(6) In applicable areas, reduces depletion of soil moisture or otherwise reduces the need for irrigation.

Secretary means the Secretary of the USDA.

Socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher means a producer who is a member of a group whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudices without regard to its members' individual qualities.

State technical committee means a committee established by the NRCS in a State pursuant to 7 CFR part 610, subpart C.

Stewardship threshold means the level of management required, as determined by NRCS, to conserve and improve the quality and condition of a natural resource through the use of—

(1) Planning criteria under a resource management system;

(2) Predictive analytics tools or models developed or approved by NRCS;

(3) Data from past and current enrollment in the program; and

(4) Other methods that measure conservation and improvement in priority resource concerns, as determined by the Chief.

Technical assistance means technical expertise, information, and tools necessary for the conservation of natural resources on land active in agricultural, forestry, or related uses. The term includes the following:

(1) Technical services provided directly to farmers, ranchers, Indian Tribes, forest producers, and other eligible entities, such as conservation planning, technical consultation, and assistance with the design and implementation of conservation activities; and

(2) Technical infrastructure, including processes, tools, and agency functions needed to support delivery of technical services; such as technical standards, resource inventories, training, data, technology, monitoring, and effects analyses.

Technical service provider (TSP) means an individual, private-sector entity, Indian Tribe, or public agency certified pursuant to 7 CFR part 652 and placed on the approved list to provide technical services to participants; or selected by USDA to assist USDA in the implementation of conservation programs covered by this part through a procurement contract, contribution agreement, or cooperative agreement with USDA.

Veteran farmer or rancher means a producer who meets the definition in section 2501(a)(7) of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990, as amended (7 U.S.C. 2279).

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§1470.4   Allocation and management.

(a) The Chief will allocate funds to States, and may adjust the weighting of the following allocation factors to provide for equitable geographic distribution and meet enrollment goals, based on the consideration of—

(1) Each State's proportion of eligible land to the total acreage of eligible land in all States;

(2) The extent and magnitude of the conservation needs associated with agricultural production in each State;

(3) The degree to which implementation of the program in the State is, or will be, effective in helping producers address those needs; and

(4) Other considerations determined by the Chief to achieve equitable geographic distribution of program funds.

(b) The Chief will allocate funding to the States to support organic production and transition to organic production based on—

(1) The number of certified and transitioning organic operations within the State; and

(2) The number of acres of certified and transitioning organic production within the State.

(c) Of the funds made available for each of fiscal years 2019 through 2023 to carry out CSP, NRCS will use, as a minimum:

(1) Five percent to assist beginning farmers or ranchers; and

(2) Five percent to assist socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers.

(d) NRCS may adjust State allocations or reallocate funds in any fiscal year if a State cannot use their full allocation.

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§1470.5   Outreach activities.

(a) NRCS will establish program outreach activities at the national, State, and local levels to inform potential applicants who control eligible land that they may be eligible to apply for program assistance.

(b) NRCS will specifically conduct outreach to historically underserved producers.

(c) NRCS will provide outreach so as not to limit producer participation because of size or type of operation or production system, including specialty crop and organic production.

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§1470.6   Eligibility requirements.

(a) Eligible applicant. To apply for CSP, a producer must—

(1) Be the operator, owner, or other tenant of an agricultural operation in the Farm Service Agency (FSA) farm records management system. Applicants must establish or update records with FSA before NRCS will consider an applicant as eligible;

(2) Share in the risk of producing a crop; share in the crop available for marketing from the farm (or would have shared had the crop been produced); and participate in the daily management, administration, and performance of the operation for the land included in the contract;

(3) Have effective control of the land unless an exception is made by the Chief in the case of land administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian lands, or other instances in which NRCS determines that there is sufficient assurance of control;

(4) Be in compliance with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation provisions found at 7 CFR part 12;

(5) Be in compliance with adjusted gross income provisions found at 7 CFR part 1400;

(6) Supply information, as required by NRCS, to determine eligibility for the program, including but not limited to, information related to eligibility requirements and ranking factors; conservation activity and production system records; information to verify the applicant's status as an historically underserved producer, if applicable; and payment eligibility as established by 7 CFR part 1400; and

(7) Provide a list of all members of the legal entity or joint operation, as applicable, and embedded entities along with members' tax identification numbers and percentage interest in the legal entity or joint operation. Where applicable, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders may use another unique identification number for each individual eligible for payments.

(b) Eligible land. A contract application must include all of the eligible land on an applicant's agricultural operation. A participant may submit an application(s) to enter into an additional contract(s) for newly acquired or newly eligible land, which would then compete with other applications in a subsequent ranking period.

(c) Ineligible land. The following lands (even if covered by the definition of eligible land in §1470.3) are part of the agricultural operation, but are not eligible for enrollment in CSP:

(1) Land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), 7 CFR part 1410, unless—

(i) The conservation reserve contract will expire at the end of the fiscal year in which the land is to be enrolled in the program; and

(ii) Conservation reserve program payments for land enrolled in the program cease before the first program payment is made to the applicant under this subchapter;

(2) Land enrolled in a wetland reserve easement through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, 7 CFR part 1468; and

(3) Land used for crop production after December 20, 2018, that had not been planted, considered to be planted, or devoted to crop production for at least 4 of the 6 years preceding that date, unless the land does not meet such requirements because that land—

(i) Had previously been enrolled in CRP;

(ii) Has been maintained using long-term crop rotation practices as determined by the NRCS; or

(iii) Is incidental land needed for efficient operation of the farm or ranch as determined by NRCS.

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§1470.7   Conservation activities.

(a) NRCS will record in the conservation stewardship plan the additional conservation activities the participant agrees to implement under the conservation stewardship contract.

(b) NRCS will make available to the public the list of conservation activities an applicant may choose to implement and manage through the CSP.

(c) NRCS may make available bundles of conservation activities that when implemented together address resource concerns in a more comprehensive and cost-effective manner.

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§1470.8   Technical and other assistance.

(a) NRCS may provide technical assistance to an eligible applicant or participant either directly or through a TSP as set forth in 7 CFR part 652.

(b) NRCS retains approval authority over certification of work done by non-NRCS personnel for the purpose of approving CSP payments.

(c) NRCS will ensure that technical assistance is available and program specifications are appropriate so as not to limit producer participation because of size or type of operation or production system, including specialty crop and organic production.

(d) NRCS will assist potential applicants dealing with the requirements of certification under the National Organic Program and CSP requirements concerning how to coordinate and simultaneously meet eligibility standards under each program.

(e) NRCS may utilize the services of State foresters and existing technical assistance programs such as the Forest Stewardship Program of the U.S. Forest Service, in coordinating assistance to NIPF owners.

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