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e-CFR data is current as of August 3, 2020

Title 7Subtitle BChapter VISubchapter D → Part 635


Title 7: Agriculture


PART 635—EQUITABLE RELIEF FROM INELIGIBILITY


Contents
§635.1   Definitions and abbreviations.
§635.2   Applicability.
§635.3   Reliance on incorrect actions or information.
§635.4   Failure to fully comply.
§635.5   Forms of relief.
§635.6   Equitable relief by State Conservationists.
§635.7   Procedures for granting equitable relief.

Authority: 7 U.S.C. 7996.

Source: 80 FR 62440, Oct. 16, 2015, unless otherwise noted.

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§635.1   Definitions and abbreviations.

The following terms apply to this part:

Appeal rights means the right of the participant to appeal a decision to the National Appeals Division (NAD) pursuant to part 614 of this chapter.

Chief means the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service or a person with delegated authority to act for the Chief.

Covered program means a conservation program administered by NRCS.

Equitable relief means an action described in §635.5 of this part.

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) means an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture which has responsibility for administering covered programs, including those using the funds, facilities, and authorities of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC).

OGC means the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Participant means a participant in a covered program.

Secretary means the Secretary of U.S. Department of Agriculture.

State means each of the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and any other territory or possession of the United States.

State Conservationist means the NRCS employee authorized to direct and supervise NRCS activities in a State or the State Conservationist's designee.

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§635.2   Applicability.

This part applies to all covered programs administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, except for the Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation provisions of Title XII, subtitles B and C of the Food Security Act of 1985, as amended, (16 U.S.C. 3811 et seq.). Administration of this part shall be under the supervision of the Chief, except that such authority shall not limit the exercise of authority by State Conservationists of the Natural Resources Conservation Service provided in §635.6 of this part.

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§635.3   Reliance on incorrect actions or information.

The Chief may grant equitable relief to any participant that NRCS determines is not in compliance with the requirements, terms and conditions of a covered program, and therefore ineligible for a payment, or other benefit, if the participant—

(a) Acting in good faith, relied on action and advice from an NRCS employee or representative of USDA to their detriment;

(b) Did not know or have sufficient reason to know that the action or advice upon which they relied would be detrimental; and

(c) Did not act in reliance on their own misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the program provisions, notices, or information.

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§635.4   Failure to fully comply.

The Chief may grant equitable relief to any participant that NRCS determines is not in full compliance with the requirements, terms and conditions of a covered program, and therefore ineligible for a payment, or other benefit, if the participant—

(a) Made a good faith effort to comply fully with the requirements; and

(b) Rendered substantial performance.

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§635.5   Forms of relief.

(a) The Chief may authorize a participant in a covered program to:

(1) Retain payments or other benefits received under the covered program;

(2) Continue to receive payments and other benefits under the covered program;

(3) Continue to participate, in whole or in part, under any contract executed under the covered program;

(4) Re-enroll all or part of the land covered by the program; and

(5) Receive such other equitable relief as determined to be appropriate.

(b) As a condition of receiving relief under this part, the participant may be required to remedy their failure to meet the program requirement or mitigate its effects.

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§635.6   Equitable relief by State Conservationists.

(a) State Conservationists' Authority. State Conservationists have the authority to grant requests for equitable relief under this section when—

(1) The program matter with respect to which the relief is sought is a program matter in a covered program operated within the authorized jurisdiction of the State Conservationist;

(2) The total amount of relief (including payments and other benefits) that will be provided to the participant under this section during the fiscal year is less than $20,000;

(3) The total amount of such relief that has been previously provided to the participant using this section in the fiscal year, as calculated in paragraph (a)(2) of this section, is not more than $5,000;

(4) The total amount of payments and benefits of any kind for which relief is provided to similarly situated participants by a State Conservationist in a fiscal year, is not more than $1,000,000.

(b) Additional limits on authority. The authority provided under this section does not extend to the administration of:

(1) Payment limitations under part 1400 of this title;

(2) Payment limitations under a conservation program administered by the Secretary; or

(3) The highly erodible land and wetland conservation requirements under subtitles B or C of Title XII of the Food Security Act of 1985 (16 U.S.C. 3811 et seq.).

(c) Concurrence by the Office of the General Counsel. Relief shall only be made under this part after consultation with, and concurrence by, the Office of General Counsel.

(d) Secretary's reversal authority. A decision made under this part by the State Conservationist may be reversed only by the Secretary, who may not delegate that authority.

(e) Relation to other authorities. The authority provided under this section is in addition to any other applicable authority that may allow relief.

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§635.7   Procedures for granting equitable relief.

(a) The Chief or State Conservationist may initiate a request for equitable relief for a participant that meets the requirement of this part.

(b) Participants may request equitable relief from the Chief or the State Conservationist as provided in §§635.3 and 635.4 of this part.

(c) Only a participant directly affected by the non-compliance with the covered program requirements is eligible for equitable relief under this part.

(d) Requests by a participant for equitable relief must be made in writing, no later than 30 calendar days from the date of receipt of the notification of non-compliance with the requirements of the covered conservation program.

(e) Requests for equitable relief must include any information necessary to determine eligibility under this part and such other information as required by NRCS to determine whether granting equitable relief is appropriate. Information needed by the agency to assess equitable relief requests will be provided and updated by applicable policy and procedure.

(f) If equitable relief is denied by the Chief or the State Conservationist, the participant will be provided with written notice of appeal rights to the National Appeals Division, pursuant to 7 CFR part 614.

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