LEGISLATIVE TITLE: Food Security Act of 1985


OTHER TITLES AND POPULAR NAMES: "Swampbuster"; 1985 Farm Bill; 1996 Farm Bill; Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996; Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation and Reserve Program.

SUMMARY: The 1985 Act contains provisions designed to discourage the conversion of wetlands into non-wetland areas. These provision collectively, are commonly referred to as the "Swampbuster" provisions (Food Security Act of 1985 (Title XII, Subtitle C)). Swampbuster provisions denied Federal farm program benefits to producers who converted wetlands after December 23, 1985. The Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 strengthened Swampbuster by making violators ineligible for farm program benefits for that year and subsequent years. The Act also created a system for inadvertent violations allowing farmers to regain lost Federal benefits if they restore converted wetlands.

The 1996 Farm Bill, (Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, PL 104-127) contains numerous provisions that proportedly modify the operation of certain agricultural programs. In particular, Subtitle C, Wetland Conservation, modifies Sections 1221 and 1222 (16 USC 3821, and 16 USC 3822) of the Food Security Act of 1985 regarding program ineligibility, wetland delineation, consultation and cooperation requirements, and clarifies the definition of agricultural lands in the Memorandum of Agreement signed with the Department of the Army, the Department of Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency, January 6, 1994. It also authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to operate a pilot program for mitigation banking of wetlands to assist persons to increase the efficiency of agricultural operations while protecting wetland functions and values.

The Conservation Reserve Program (Title XII) (16 USC 3831) authorizes the Federal government to enter into contracts with agricultural producers to remove highly erodible cropland from production, in return for annual rental payments. The Wetlands Reserve Program (16 USC 3837) authorizes enrollment of wetlands for protection and restoration through permanent and temporary (30 year) easements.

RESOURCES COVERED: Wetlands; agricultural lands; highly erodible land; converted wetlands.

COMPLIANCE REQUIREMENTS: The Corps coordinates its flood control plans involving agricultural lands with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and alerts project sponsors and affected farmers of their responsibilities for meeting requirements set forth in the "Swampbuster" provisions of the Food Security Act of 1985. The Act provides for certain "third party" exemptions that may be available to landowners who receive ancillary drainage benefits from Corps projects. It is the responsibility of the individual landowner, not the Corps, to request such an exemption.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) implementing guidance for the Swampbuster provisions establishes the terms and conditions under which a person, who has produced an agricultural commodity on newly converted wetlands, shall be declared ineligible for certain benefits provided by USDA. Such benefits include: commodity price support or production adjustment payments; farm storage facility loans; disaster payments; payments for storage of grain owned or controlled by the Commodity Credit Corporation; Federal crop insurance; and FmHA loans. Farmers who plant commodity crops, after 23 December 1985, on lands that were converted from a wetland to a non-wetland condition by a Corps project will trigger "Swampbuster" considerations, which may lead to the cited USDA program ineligibilities. This could result in lessening of sponsor support for a project and a reduction in estimated benefits that might otherwise have been attributed to the project proposal. It could also change the with and without project assumptions used to establish environmental impacts and associated mitigation needs; this is particularly significant where habitat preservation credit is a component of mitigation plans.

The Memorandum of Agreement between the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of the Army on January 6, 1994, gives NRCS authority to make Section 404 (33 USC 1344) jurisdictional determinations on agricultural lands using the Food Security Act Manual, and the 1996 Amendments further clarify the definition of agricultural lands for the purposes of implementing that agreement. Implementing guidance is currently under development by an interagency working group (as of May 1996).


Who Reviews or Consults: The Secretary of Agriculture is to assist, through contracts, owners and operators of such land to help them comply with this act.

Process: None specified

Product: None specified

Timing/Schedule: None specified


Civil Works Planning: ER 1105-2-100, Guidance for Conducting Civil Works Planning Studies, Chapter 5.

Civil Works Engineering: None specific to this statute.

Civil Works Construction: None specific to this statute.

Civil Works Operations: None specific to this statute.

Regulatory: None specific to this statute. However, efforts are currently underway between the Corps and the NRCS to develop implementing guidance regarding the 1996 amendments to the "Swampbuster Provisions" and the interagency Memorandum of Agreement.

FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE: Conservation Reserve Program (Title XII); Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act.


Agency: Department of Agriculture (USDA) final rule effective 17 September 1987 (7 C.F.R. 12), are administered by the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Guidance Title: None identified

Code of Federal Regulations Citation: 7 C.F.R. 12