Farmers who may or already have broken out grasslands need to report to NRCS this sodbusting activity before planting commodity crops on the land.
If that doesnâ€™t happen, landowners could put themselves in jeopardy of losing USDA farm program benefits, say Steve Chick, NRCS state conservationist in Nebraska.
Observations by NRCS staff and reports from other people are triggering the agency this year to more closely review sodbusting in 12 Nebraska counties.
Brian Wolford, Farm Service Agency state executive director, says farmers who convert non-cropland to cropland must report that change to the local FSA office before planting. Local FSA staff will share the information with NRCS for a highly erodible land determination.
If land is highly erodible and doesn't have a cropping history, there needs to be a basic conservation system in place before planting any commodity crops, according to Chick. A basic conservation system includes practices necessary to control all forms of erosion, including gully erosion. If the land is not highly erodible, the farmer can proceed with planting.
On wetlands, the rules are a little different. A landowner can crop it with standard farming practices, but they can't manipulate it (remove trees or fill with soil, etc.) or drain it, Chick says. There are several wetland programs where farmers can receive payments for preserving or restoring the wetland area to get some economic return for the land.
"These requirements have existed since the 1985 Farm Bill,â€ he explains. â€œWe don't want people being surprised about USDA program benefits if they are making these land conversions."