Farmlands Protection

Introduction

The importance of farmlands to the national and local economy requires the consideration of the impact of activities on land adjacent to prime or unique farmlands. The purpose of the Farmland Protection Policy Act (7 U.S.C. 4201 et seq, implementing regulations 7 CFR Part 658, of the Agriculture and Food Act of 1981, as amended) is to minimize the effect of Federal programs on the unnecessary and irreversible conversion of farmland to nonagricultural uses.

The Act does not apply to projects already in or committed to urban development or those that could otherwise not convert farmland to non-agricultural uses. However, land that meets the definition of prime or unique farmlands or is determined to be of statewide or local significance (with concurrence by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture) is subject to the Act. In some states agricultural lands are protected from development by agricultural districting, zoning provisions, or special tax districts.

HUD Guidance

Does your project include any activities, including new construction, acquisition of undeveloped land, or conversion, that could potentially convert one land use to another? Federal projects are subject to FPPA requirements if they may irreversibly convert farmland to a non-agricultural use. A finding of compliance with the requirements of the Farmland Protection Policy Act of 1981 (7 U.S.C. 4201 et seq.) must be made for assisted new construction activities, the acquisition of undeveloped land, and conversion projects.

If so, does your project meet one of the following exemptions?

  • Construction limited to on-farm structures needed for farm operations
  • Construction limited to new minor secondary (accessory) structures such as a garage or storage shed
  • Project on land used for water storage
  • Project on land already in or committed to urban development (7 CFR 658.2(a))

Farmland subject to FPPA requirements does not have to be currently used for cropland. USDA/NRCS regulations contained at 7 CFR Part 658.2 define “committed to urban development” as land with a density of 30 structures per 40-acre area; lands identified as ‘‘urbanized area’’ (UA) on the Census Bureau Map or as urban area mapped with a ‘‘tint overprint’’ on USGS topographical maps; or as ‘‘urban-built-up’’ on the USDA Important Farmland Maps. Note that land “zoned” for development, i.e. non-agricultural use, does not exempt a project from compliance with the FPPA.

If not, does “Important Farmland,” including prime farmland, unique farmland, or farmland of statewide or local importance regulated under the FPPA occur on the project site?

Important Farmland includes prime farmland, unique farmland, and/or land of statewide or local importance. (7 CFR 658.2(a)).

  • “Prime farmland” is land that has the best combination of physical and chemical characteristics for producing food, feed, fiber, forage, oilseed, and other agricultural crops with minimum inputs of fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, and labor, and without intolerable soil erosion, as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture. Prime farmland includes land that possesses the above characteristics but is being used currently to produce livestock and timber. It does not include land already in or committed to urban development or water storage.
  • “Unique farmland” is land other than prime farmland that is used for production of specific high-value food and fiber crops, as determined by the Secretary. It has the special combination of soil quality, location, growing season, and moisture supply needed to economically produce sustained high quality or high yields of specific crops when treated and managed according to acceptable farming methods. Examples of such crops include citrus, tree nuts, olives, cranberries, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Farmland of statewide or local importance has been determined by the appropriate State or unit of local government agency or agencies to be significant.

Use the following resources to determine whether Important Farmland is present:

If so, consider alternatives to completing the project on Important Farmland and means of avoiding impacts to Important Farmland.

Complete form AD-1006, “Farmland Conversion Impact Rating” and contact the state soil scientist before sending it to the local NRCS District Conservationist. Preparers of HUD environmental review records must complete Parts I, III, ┬áVI, and VII of form AD-1006. NRCS will complete Parts II, IV, and V of the form. Part VII combined scores over 160 points require the evaluation of at least one alternative project site. NRCS has 45 days to make a determination. NRCS will return form AD-1006 to you. Corridor projects that go over several tracts, such as railroads, utility lines, highways, etc, require completion of form NRCS-CPA-106 .

Environmental review record preparers must follow the steps below to complete the farmland conversion impact rating process:

  1. HUD/RE must complete Parts I and III of Form AD-1006 and submit it to the local NRCS District Conservationist.
  2. NRCS will complete Parts II, IV, and V within 45 calendar days.
  3. HUD/RE must complete Parts VI and VII and evaluate the final point scoring.
  4. HUD/RE must return a copy of Form 1006 to the NRCS State Soil Scientist or designee and inform them of your determination. Work with NRCS to minimize the impact of the project on the protected farmland.
  5. HUD/RE must include the completed form in the ERR documentation.

Compliance and Documentation

The environmental review record should contain one of the following:

  • A determination that the project does not include any activities, including new construction, acquisition of undeveloped land, or conversion, that could potentially convert one land use to another
  • Evidence that the exemption applies, including all applicable maps
  • Evidence supporting the determination that “Important Farmland,” including prime farmland, unique farmland, or farmland of statewide or local importance regulated under the FPPA does not occur on the project site
  • Documentation of all correspondence with NRCS, including the completed AD-1006 and a description of the consideration of alternatives and means to avoid impacts to Important Farmland

View Farmlands Protection - Worksheet.

View Farmlands - Partner Worksheet.