M_440_521 - Part 521 - Agricultural Management Assistance

Table of Contents

Subpart A General Information

521.0  General Information

521.1  Source of Authority

521.2  Purpose and Use of the Manual

521.3  Program Priorities

521.4  Definitions

Subpart B - Responsibilities

521.10  Natural Resources Conservation Service

521.11  Farm Service Agency

521.12  Tribal Conservation Advisory Council

521.13  State Conservation Agencies and Associations

521.14  Local and Tribal Conservation Districts

521.15  Responsibilities Assigned To Other Agencies and Tribes

Subpart C – Information and Outreach

521.20  General

521.21  Information and Outreach

521.22  Public Notice of Program Information

Subpart D – Program Eligibility

521.30  General

521.31  Producer Eligibility

521.31  Land Eligibility

Subpart E – Fund Allocation

521.40  Allocation Process

521.41  Funding Requirements

Subpart F – Contract Application Acceptance and Evaluation

521.50  Applications

521.51  Application Guidance

521.52  Application Ranking Process

Subpart G – AMA Plan of Operations

521.60  General Information

521.61  Conservation Practices and Planning Activities

521.62  Quality Assurance and Oversight for AMA Planning and Implementation

Subpart H – Conservation Payments and Payment Limitations

521.70  Payment Schedules

521.71  Determining Eligible Payment Schedule Costs

521.72  Payments and Payment Limitations

Subpart I – Contracts, Payments, and General Administrative Requirements

521.80  Contract Requirements

521.81  Compliance with Laws and Regulations

521.82  Environmental Services Credits for Conservation Improvements

521.83  Contract Modifications

521.84  Equitable Relief

521.85  Canceling and Terminating Contracts

521.86  Recovery of Costs

521.87  Payment Procedures

Subpart J – Appeals

521.90  Appeals

521.91  Handling Adverse Decisions

521.92  Appeals and Decisions

521.93  Notification Requirements

Subpart K – Program Evaluation and Assessment

521.100  Evaluation and Assessment Process

Subpart L – Exhibits

521.110  Forms and Sample Letters

521.111  Lifespan of Conservation Practices

521.112  Template for Producer Self-Certification - Fiscal Year Payments

[M_440_521_TOC - Amend. 79 - December 2010]

Subpart A - General Information

521.0  General Information

A.  Information

(1)  This part provides policy, guidance, procedures, and information for implementing Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA).  It also identifies the source of authority, defines the purpose and use of the manual, and outlines objectives and scope.

(2)  The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) will make funding available for each of the fiscal years 2008 through 2012 to carry out AMA.  Funding will be divided as follows:

(i)  Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS):  50 percent

(ii)  Risk Management Agency (RMA):  40 percent

(iii)  Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS):  10 percent

B.  Purpose

AMA was reauthorized through the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill) to—

(i)  Construct or improve watershed management structures or irrigation structures.

(ii)  Plant trees to form windbreaks or to improve water quality.

(iii)  Mitigate financial risk through production or marketing diversification or the implementation of resource conservation practices, including soil erosion control, integrated pest management, or the transition to organic farming.

C.  Program Availability

AMA is available in 16 States in which Federal Crop Insurance Program participation is historically low, as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture.  These States are Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

D.  Agency Responsibilities

AMA is jointly administered by the NRCS, RMA, and AMS.  NRCS is responsible for program conservation provisions and determining “person eligibility.”

E.  Relation to Other Conservation Provisions and Programs

(1)  AMA is not subject to the highly erodible land and wetland conservation provisions of the Food Security Act of 1985, as amended (16 U.S.C. Sections 3801–3824).

(2)  AMA is subject to adjusted gross income (AGI) provisions.

(3)  The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is responsible for providing information to NRCS as to whether land offered for AMA is enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program or the Grassland Reserve Program.

(4)  AMA participants are not eligible for payments for conservation practices on eligible land if the participant receives payments or other benefits for the same practice on the same land under any other conservation program administered by USDA.

521.1  Source of Authority

A.  Legislative Authorities

(1)  The legislative authority for the policy and procedures contained in this part is Public Law 106-224, the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000, Title I, Section 133, which amended the Federal Crop Insurance Act (7 U.S.C. Section 1501 et seq.) by adding section 524(b).  Section 524(b) was further amended by Public Law 107-171, the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (Farm Bill) (May 13, 2002).  Section 524(b) has been further amended by Public Law 110-246, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Act) (June 18, 2008).

(2)  The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act (15 U.S.C. Section 714) was amended by the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 to provide authorization for the CCC to fund conservation and environmental programs, including AMA.

B.  Federal Regulation

The Federal regulation for AMA is located at 7 CFR Part 1465, which was published on December 8, 2009.

C.  Authority to Waive Administrative Procedures

Please refer to the Title 440, Conservation Programs Manual (CPM) Part 512, Subpart A, Section 512.0K, “Waivers to National Policy,” for the authority to waive AMA administrative policy.

D.  Delegation of Authority

The State Conservationist may delegate responsibilities on items for which they have responsibility, unless specifically prohibited by this manual or other agency policy.  These delegations of authority will be managed in accordance with 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart A.

521.2  Purpose and Use of the Manual

A.  Purpose of this Manual

This manual contains NRCS policy guidance and operating procedures for implementing AMA (7 CFR Part 1465), in accordance with 7 CFR Part 1465.

B.  Knowledge by Employees

NRCS personnel assigned AMA responsibility will have a working knowledge of this manual as well as 7 CFR Part 1465 and 440-CPM, Part 512, “Conservation Programs Contracting.”

C.  Use of Manual

This manual provides—

(i)  Policy implementation, guidance, and operating procedures for NRCS.

(ii)  A reference and training tool for the following:

·          NRCS employees

·          Conservation district employees and supervisors

·          Personnel from cooperating agencies and organizations

·          Technical service providers

·          Tribal leaders

·          Others

D.  Supplements to this Manual

State policy supplements to this manual may be approved by the State Conservationist, with written concurrence from the Deputy Chief of Financial Assistance and Community Development, unless specifically prohibited by statute, regulation, this manual or other agency policy guidance. The final version of all State supplements must be submitted to the Deputy Chief for Management for posting in the electronic directives system.

E.  Use of Terminology in this Manual

(1)  As provided by section 1241 of the 1985 Food Security Act (16 U.S.C. Section 3841), as amended by the 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, and further amended by Public Law 110-246, the 2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (June 18, 2008), the funds, facilities, and authorities of the CCC are available to NRCS for carrying out AMA through the Chief of the NRCS, who is a vice president of the CCC.  Accordingly, where NRCS is mentioned in this manual, it also refers to the CCC’s funds, facilities, and authorities, if applicable.

(2)  NRCS has established policy and promulgated regulations regarding the certification and use of technical service providers (TSP).  Accordingly, where the term “TSP” is used in this manual, it means a certified technical service provider.

521.3  Program Priorities

National Priorities and National Measures

(1)  To provide guidance to the State and local levels toward achieving the program purposes, NRCS has established the following national priorities:

(i)  Reductions of nonpoint source pollution, such as nutrients, sediment, pesticides, or excess salinity in impaired watersheds consistent with total daily maximum loads (TMDLs), where available, as well as the reduction of surface and groundwater contamination.

(ii)  Conservation of ground and surface water resources.

(iii)  Reduction of emissions, such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds, and ozone precursors and depleters that contribute to air quality impairment violations of National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

(iv)  Reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation from unacceptable high levels on agricultural land.

(v)  Promotion of at-risk species habitat conservation.

(2)  The national priorities will be used to guide annual funding allocations to States and for prioritizing AMA applications for funding.

521.4  Definitions

See 440-CPM, Part 502, “Terms and Abbreviations Common to All Programs.”

[M_440_521_A - Amend. 79 - December 2010]

Subpart B - Responsibilities

521.10  Natural Resources Conservation Service

A.  Responsibility Assignments

This section defines NRCS responsibilities for the following:

(i)  National Headquarters

(ii)  State offices

(iii)  Field offices

B.  The Chief and Associate Chief provide national leadership for—

(1)  Making policy and regulatory decisions.

(2)  Making fund allocation and reallocation decisions.

(3)  Maintaining working relationships within USDA and externally to foster effective and efficient use of AMA.

C.  Regional Conservationists

(1)  The Regional Conservationist (RC) is the approving authority for all contracts when the total contract obligation exceeds $150,000 in accordance with Title 440, Conservation Programs Manual (CPM), Part 512, Subpart E, “Contracting.”  This authority may not be delegated.  For payment schedule approval requirements see 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart D.

(2)  Quality assurance in program implementation at the State level.

(3)  Other responsibilities delegated by the Chief.

D.  Deputy Chief for Financial Assistance and Community Development (FACD)

The Deputy Chief for FACD provides national leadership for—

(i)  Program development and implementation, including rulemaking.

(ii)  Making funding allocation and reallocation recommendations.

(iii)  Waiving administrative procedures as warranted as specified in section 521.1C.

(iv)  Coordinating with appropriate agencies and organizations at the national level.

(v)  Overseeing implementation of AMA.

(vi)  Other responsibilities delegated by the Chief.

E.  Deputy Chief for Management

The Chief Financial Officer—

(i)  Issues funds to State Conservationists for initial allocations, reallocations, and modifications when approved by Chief or Associate Chief.

(ii)  Maintains fund accountability, including accounts for cost overruns.

(iii)  Carries out other responsibilities delegated by the Chief.

F.  Deputy Chief for Strategic Planning and Accountability

The Deputy Chief for Strategic Planning and Accountability provides national leadership for—

(i)  Policy and technical support for program payment schedules in accordance with 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart D, and Title 200, National Resource Economics Handbook (NREH), Part 613.

(ii)  Other responsibilities delegated by the Chief.

G.  Deputy Chief for Science and Technology

The Deputy Chief for Science and Technology provides national leadership for—

(i)  Developing technology for AMA support.

(ii)  Analysis and evaluation support for AMA.

(iii)  Other responsibilities delegated by the Chief.

H.  Director, Financial Assistance Programs Division (FAPD)

The Director, Financial Assistance Programs Division, provides national support for—

(i)  Operational leadership and management of AMA.

(ii)  Maintaining liaison and working relationship with FSA, AMS, and RMA program managers and other agencies and organizations on AMA.

(iii)  Program training and overall program evaluation and assessment.

(iv)  Developing the AMA manual on program policies and procedures.

(v)  Recommending funding allocations to the Deputy Chief for FACD.

(vi)  Working closely with FSA to ensure access to the Service Center Information Management System (SCIMS) data.

(viii)  Analyzing performance indicators and reports.

(ix)  Monitoring, evaluating, and reporting program impacts on natural resources.

(x)  Maintaining program integrity to ensure statutory directional intent is maintained.

(xi)  Monitoring the obligation and use of funds.

(xii)  Other responsibilities as assigned by the Deputy Chief for FACD.

I.  State Conservationists

The State Conservationist will lead AMA activities in the State in conjunction with the activities listed in 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart A, “General Information,” including the following responsibilities:

(i)  Ensure that all program activities comply with statutes, regulations and policy.

(ii)  Develop additional guidelines for conservation needs assessments.

(iii)  Establish State program management policies, procedures, and program performance indicators consistent with national policy and direction.

(iv)  Maintain program and fund accountability.

(v)  Verify accuracy of payment requests and authorize payments in ProTracts.

(vi)  Conduct statewide public outreach and information activities, providing information on national priorities, State-specific goals, and the availability of assistance.

(vii)  Establish State policies, resource concerns and priorities, and eligible practices.

(viii)  Approve the payment schedule used in the State.

(ix)  Determine fund allocations within the State.

(x)  Identify, monitor, and analyze performance indicators and evaluate and report program impacts on resources.

(xi)  Delegate appropriate roles and responsibilities to designated conservationists for each jurisdiction of the State.

(xii)  Ensure compliance with appropriate internal controls, including a “separation of duties” as it relates to payment certification.

(xiii)  Administer offsets, collections, and claims.

(xiv)  Provide training.

(xv)  Coordinate activities across State lines with other State Conservationists.

(xvi)  Participate in the appeal process, as appropriate.

(xvii)  Provide leadership for developing cooperative agreements with other conservation partners concerning their roles and responsibilities.

(xviii)  Allocate technical resources to address concerns in the State.

(xix)  Review the local application process and ranking to ensure program complies with NRCS regulations and policy and ensure that USDA civil rights responsibilities are met.

(xx)  On behalf of the Chief, sign documents necessary to implement the program.

(xxi)  Grant waivers or identify a delegated authority to grant waivers, as allowed, to provide for—

·          Starting a practice prior to application for the program or contract approval.

·          Waiving all or part of recovery costs.

·          Other tasks as indicated by policy.

(xxii)  Establish program performance goals.

(xxiii)  Advise the Chief on what national priorities should be identified.

(xxiv)  Grant equitable relief to those participants who are eligible.

(xxv)  Participate in the appeal process in accordance with 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart J, and 440-CPM, Part 510.

(xxvi)  Maintain an effective working relationship with FSA.

(xxvii)  Posting AMA application and funding information to the NRCS State Web site in accordance with 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart C.

(xxviii)  Other responsibilities as assigned by the Chief or Regional Conservationist.

J.  Field Offices

Designated conservationists provide leadership for AMA activities in their area of authority (as delegated by the State Conservationist), which includes the following responsibilities:

(i)  Provide local program leadership.

(ii)  Assess natural resource and environmental conditions and needs.

(iii)  Identify local priorities and resources available.

(iv)  Make program policy recommendations to the State Conservationist.

(v)  Provide leadership in carrying out public outreach and information activities at the local level and document activities in accordance with national outreach policy.

(vi)  Determine eligible conservation practices and review the established payment schedules for available conservation programs.

(vii)  Analyze performance indicators and reports.

(viii)  Monitor, evaluate, and report program impacts on natural resources.

(ix)  Provide leadership for developing cooperative agreements with local conservation partners for approval by the State Conservationist.

(x)  Implement policies and procedures in accordance with NRCS rules and regulations.

(xi)  Announce application cutoff dates according to state and national guidance.

(xii)  Accept applications and enter applications into ProTracts.

(xiii)  Verify and document applicant and land eligibility, including signature authority.  

(xiv)  Rank and approve applications for funding and AMA plan of operations (APO) development.

(xv)  Ensure all AMA contracts are accurately entered into ProTracts.

(xvi)  Upload all approved contract items into ProTracts from Customer Service Toolkit.

(xvii)  Participate in appeal processes, as appropriate.

(xviii)  Process payment requests on Form NRCS-1245, “Practice Approval and Payment Application,” in accordance with 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart I.

(xix)  Ensure that the obligation of funds does not exceed the available fund allocations and that contract payments are not approved in excess of contract obligations.

(xx)  Certify installation and checkout of completed structural practices, unless contracted for completion by a TSP.

(xxi)  Monitor and inform applicants of all payment limitations.

(xxii)  Monitor contract expiration dates and modify contracts as necessary and consistent with agency policies to carry out program objectives.

(xxiii)  Maintain an effective working relationship with FSA.

(xxiv)  Determine acceptability of and approve APO, ensuring that the APO is approved by a certified conservation planner.

(xxv)  Implement contract responsibilities as defined in 440-CPM, Part 512.

(xxvi)  Prepare information for waivers requested from the Chief for waivers associated with contract limitations and adjusted gross income.

(xxvii)  Prepare information for waivers requested from the State Conservationist for waivers associated with starting a practice in the first 12 months of a contract, cost recovery, and liquidated damages.

(xxviii)  Document the case file in accordance with Title 180, National Planning Procedures Handbook (NPPH), Part 600; 440-CPM; and State-approved established procedures.

(xxix)  Other responsibilities as assigned by the State Conservationist.

              521.11  Farm Service Agency (FSA) FSA

A.  Prepares case files and participates in hearings for reconsiderations, appeals before the county FSA committee, and in mediation sessions

B.  Accepts and processes Form CCC-901, identifying entity and joint operation member farm information

C.  Determines whether land offered for AMA is enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program and Grassland Reserve Program and provides information to NRCS as requested

D.  Processes appeals upon request

E.  County office staff should establish farm records for NRCS program applicants and complete producer eligibility determinations and certifications in accordance with the memorandum of understanding between NRCS and FSA

521.12  Tribal Conservation Advisory Council

The Tribal conservation advisory council works with NRCS to ensure local conservation program delivery by identifying local conservation needs, resource concerns, and priorities in order to provide recommendations regarding program administration and implementation.

521.13  State Conservation Agencies and Associations

State conservation agencies and associations may enter into agreements with NRCS in order to assist with implementation of the program.

521.14  Local and Tribal Conservation Districts

A.  Local conservation districts are legal subdivisions of State government and are charged by State law with providing leadership for the conservation of soil, water, and other natural resources within conservation district boundaries.  Tribal conservation districts are appointed by Tribal government or formed under Tribal resolution.

B.  The responsibilities of the local and Tribal conservation district are to—

(1)  Develop the conservation needs assessment and conservation action plan in accordance with 440-CPM, Part 500.

(2)  Lead the local working group in accordance with the operating procedures in 440-CPM, Part 501.

(3)  Accept applications for contracts and forward them to NRCS.

(4)  Provide technical assistance support, where appropriate.

(5)  Provide contract administrative support, where appropriate.

(6)  Assist NRCS with local information and outreach activities.

C.  Local and tribal conservation districts may enter into agreements with NRCS in order to assist with implementation of the program.

D.  Where a conservation district is not present or chooses not to fulfill the responsibilities outlined in 440-CPM, Part 501, the NRCS designated conservationist will have these responsibilities.

521.15  Responsibilities Assigned to Other Agencies and Tribes

A.  Other Federal, State, and local agencies and Tribes may have the following responsibilities:

(1)  Serving as a member of the State Technical Committee, local working group, or both.

(2)  Providing input and recommendations to NRCS for developing program guidelines.

(3)  Assisting NRCS with information and outreach activities.

(4)  Providing technical assistance where appropriate.

B.  The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) ensures the no Tribal member exceeds payment limitations, provide authorization to the participant for adequate control of land, and approve forest management plans on lands administered by the BIA.

C.  The State Forester works with State Conservationist to determine acceptable management plans.

[M_440_521_B - Amend. 79 - December 2010]

Subpart C - Information and Outreach

521.20  General

A.  The purpose of information and outreach activities is to ensure that NRCS customers and potential customers are aware of, understand, and have access to conservation programs and services, and to deliver program facts, program details, and news about the program to broad audiences.

B.  Procedures must adhere to public information and outreach policy guidance in Title 260, General Manual (GM), Part 400, and 230-GM, Part 406.  The following are general explanations of information, outreach, and education:

(1)  Information includes those activities to develop, produce, and deliver general news, knowledge, and facts about the program.  Information is delivered extensively to a wide audience.  NRCS will use all available media to provide full disclosure of ranking criteria, eligible practices, payment rates, and program descriptions.

(2)  Outreach includes those activities to develop, produce, and deliver general news, knowledge, and facts about the program to a specific audience.  Outreach efforts are typically aimed at producers who have been historically underserved, have not historically participated in conservation programs, or who require special emphasis or accommodations.

(3)  The intent of outreach activities is to ensure that the targeted producers are aware and informed of program opportunities and have access to program participation.  Special outreach efforts could include, but not be limited to—

(i)  Establishing special outreach activities at the national, State, and local levels.

(ii)  Providing special accommodations, to the extent possible, to assure that producers are aware, informed, and have access to information and assistance, such as—

·          Using language spoken by the intended audience.

·          Using appropriate media sources to reach the intended audience.

(4)  Training and education includes those activities to develop, produce, and deliver technical news, knowledge, and facts to producers to help them identify and understand their natural resource and environmental conditions, and to know how to develop, implement, and maintain a conservation practice or system.

C.  NRCS will ensure that outreach is provided so as not to limit participation because of size or type of operation or production system, including specialty crop and organic production.

D.  The official USDA nondiscriminatory statement must be included on all information and announcements to the public. 

521.21  Information and Outreach

A.  General

(1)  NRCS will establish program outreach activities at the national, State, and field levels to ensure that potential participants who control eligible land are aware and informed that they may be eligible to apply for program assistance. Special outreach will be made to eligible producers with historically low participation rates, including but not restricted to historically underserved producers, Indian Tribes, Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders. 

(2)  The Chief must ensure that outreach and technical assistance are 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.

B.  National-Level Outreach

The Director, Financial Assistance Programs Division (FAPD), will work in partnership with the NRCS Office of Outreach and Advocacy to locate and provide outreach efforts to targeted groups. Those efforts will include—

(i)  Issuing press releases to announce activities to universities, colleges, and grass roots organizations specifically identified with a protected group.  All press releases will contain a contact person for obtaining further information.

(ii)  Submitting information for publication in national newsletters and magazines serving historically underserved populations.

C.  State-Level Outreach

State Conservationists will continue making special outreach efforts to distribute information regarding the Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) Program to reach all potential participants through various means, which will include—

(i)  Undertaking significant outreach efforts through media outlets appropriate to the targeted audience.

(ii)  Distributing personal mailings to socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers, beginning farmers or ranchers, and limited-resource farmers or ranchers.  

(iii)  Ensuring language appropriate communications. 

(iv)  Ensuring that the diversity of residents, landowners, and land operators in a local area are provided the opportunity to be represented in the locally led process.  The locally led process at the service centers level is key and provides for input from a broad range of agencies, organizations, businesses, and individuals in the local areas who have an interest in natural resource management.

D.  Indian Tribes

NRCS is committed to providing consultation and outreach and services to Indian Tribes and is taking actions to expand outreach activities, which will include—

(i)  Working with the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) to provide onsite outreach and training to American Indians and Alaska Native producers, farmers, land users, and their Tribal governments. 

(ii)  Expanding consultation efforts to be more inclusive of USDA conservation programs and services to Indian Tribes.  All consultations are to be open and candid so that all parties may evaluate for themselves the potential impact.  Consultation will—

·          Be conducted among designated USDA officials and designated Tribal officials.

·          Operate within a government-to-government relationship with federally recognized Indian Tribes.

·          Consult to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, with Indian Tribal governments before taking actions and affect federally recognized Indian Tribes.

·          Assess the impact of agency activities on Tribal trust resources and assure that Tribal interests are considered before the activities are undertaken.

·          Remove procedural impediments to working directly with Tribal governments on activities that affects trust proper or government rights of the Tribes.

·          Work cooperatively with other agencies to accomplish these goals.

521.22  Public Notice of Program Information

A.  National Headquarters must post specific information for public use on the agency’s national Web site.  This information includes, but is not limited to—

(1)  Program description.

(2)  National priorities.

(3)  General application information.

(4)  Prior-year funding data.

B.  State Conservationists must post program information to the State Web site, including but not limited to—

(1)  Program description.

(2)  National and State priorities.

(3)  General application information, including continuous signup, application cutoff dates, and where to apply.

(4)  Producer and land eligibility requirements

(5)  Eligible practices.

(6)  Payment rates.

(7)  Participant responsibilities.

(8)  Starting a practice prior to written contract approval will result in the ineligibility of that practice for AMA assistance unless a waiver has been approved (see 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart E).

(9)  Emphasized outreach to historically underserved individuals and groups.

(10)  The AMA Program is open to all eligible agricultural producers.

C.  Designated conservationists must provide outreach of program information in their responsible geographic area by posting or publishing program information in public areas, local newspapers, producer organization newsletters, conservation district newsletters, other local media easily accessible by the general public, or a combination of these.  This outreach effort must include but is not limited to—

(1)  Program description.

(2)  General application information, including continuous signup, application cutoff dates, and where to apply.

(3)  Local office location and contact information.

(4)  Link to State NRCS Web site.

[M_440_521_C - Amend. 79 - December 2010]

Subpart D - Program Eligibility

521.30  General

A.  All Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) applications must meet the criteria for both producer eligibility and land eligibility to be considered for funding.  The application should remain in “pending” status until these certifications are completed.  Application evaluation and ranking should not occur until applicant eligibility is determined.

B.  See Title 440, Conservation Program Manual (CPM), Part 512, Subpart C, for procedures on submitting and accepting applications and basic conservation program contract (CPC) eligibility.

C.  NRCS has the responsibility of documenting and determining both producer and land eligibility. NRCS must notify the applicant of the determination of their eligibility status.  If the determination is made that the applicant does not meet the producer eligibility criteria or the land does not meet the land eligibility criteria, the applicant will be provided appeal rights in accordance with 7 CFR Part 614 and 440-CPM, Part 510.

D.  Eligibility determinations will be made in accordance with 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart D and 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart C.

(1)  The eligibility determination must be documented in the case file.

(2)  When all the NRCS eligibility requirements have been met for an application, the designated conservationist must complete the “Other Eligibility” check box in the ProTracts applicant information screen.

521.31  Producer Eligibility

A.  Producer Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible to participate in AMA, an applicant must meet all of the following criteria:

(i)  Be a producer.  A producer is all of the following:

·          An individual, legal entity, Indian Tribe, or joint operation with signature authority.

·          Engaged in agricultural production or forestry management, or has an interest in the agricultural or forestry operation associated with the land being offered for enrollment in AMA. Applicants requesting assistance on nonindustrial private forest land must not be—

 - Principally engaged in the primary processing of raw wood products.

 - Corporations or other legal entities with publicly traded stock.

·          Producing an annual minimum of $1,000 of agricultural products.

(ii)  Have control of the land for the term of the proposed contract period.

(iii)  Be in compliance with the provisions for protecting the interests of tenants and sharecroppers, including the provisions for sharing AMA payments on a fair and equitable basis.

·          NRCS must not approve contracts with landlords who—

- Do not give tenants and sharecroppers an opportunity to participate in AMA.

- Reduce the number of tenants and sharecroppers in anticipation of AMA participation.

·          If there is a dispute between landlord and tenant or sharecropper, NRCS will not approve the AMA contract until the landlord and tenant or sharecropper resolve their dispute.  Landlord and tenant or sharecropper provisions do not apply when the tenant or sharecropper—

 - Was removed for cause, as determined by the regional attorney according to State law.

 - Left the farm voluntarily without any coercion from the landlord.

(iv)  Be within appropriate payment limitation requirements as specified in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 and according to 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart D.

(v)  Be in compliance with adjusted gross income (AGI) requirements as specified in 7 CFR Part 1400.

(vi)  Comply with applicable registration and reporting requirements of Public Law 109-282, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, as amended, and 2 CFR Parts 25 and 170.

B.  Documenting Producer Eligibility

(1)  The applicant is responsible for providing documentation to establish producer eligibility for AMA.  The eligibility determination and applicable documentation must be filed with NRCS or the Farm Service Agency (FSA) as outlined in 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart C.

(2)  Applicants must be classified by a business type in the Service Center Information Management System (SCIMS).  The eligibility requirements for each business type is outlined in the AMA eligibility matrix in 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart J, Section 512.98.

C.  Determining Eligibility as Separate Individual or Entity

To be considered as a separate individual or legal entity for the purposes of AMA (other than an individual or legal entity that is a member of a joint operation), in addition to other provisions of this section, all of the following must apply:

(i)  Has a separate and distinct interest in the land or the agricultural, forestry, or livestock production involved

(ii)  Exercises separate responsibility for such interest

(iii)  Maintains funds or accounts separate from that of any other individual or entity for such interest

D.  Eligibility Clarification for Various Entities

(1)  Indian Tribes

An Indian Tribe can be an eligible producer if it owns or has control of the land being offered for enrollment in AMA and meets all the eligibility criteria in 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart D.

(2)  Indians

An individual Indian is eligible for AMA on Tribal or non-Tribal land if the individual meets the eligibility criteria in 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart D.

(3)  Subsistence Producers

Individual and families engaged in agricultural production for subsistence purposes are eligible for AMA if they meet the requirements of 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart D.  However, the value of the production of food and fiber, had it been sold, must be used to document the $1,000 requirement if the production is—

·          The primary source of family consumption and use.

·          Used in barter and trade.

(4)  Squatters or Tenants by Sufferance

Squatters or tenants by sufferance may be eligible for AMA if they meet the following conditions:

·          Meet the eligibility criteria in 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart D

·          Have legal access to the land being offered and written consent of the owner

(5)  Minors

A minor is eligible only if the minor is legally responsible and is independently participating in the operation of the farm or ranch as an eligible individual.  An adult who is legally responsible for the minor must also cosign for the minor and is responsible for all terms of the contract.

(6)  Foreign Individuals and Entities

Foreign individuals and members of foreign entities are eligible for AMA if they meet eligibility criteria in 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart D, and have obtained and provided a Federal identification number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

E.  Ineligible Entities

(1)  Federal, State, county, and local governments, and political subdivisions of State government (e.g., school districts, conservation districts, etc.) and entities containing these units of government or subdivisions are not eligible for AMA.  However, land owned by these entities may be eligible if leased to an eligible applicant.  (See 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart D.)

(2)  Agricultural support businesses, such as agricultural supply buyers and sellers, are not eligible to participate in AMA.

521.32  Land Eligibility

A.  To be eligible for AMA, the land being offered for application into the program must meet all of the following criteria:

(1)  Be agricultural land, nonindustrial private forest land, or other land on which agricultural products, livestock, or forest-related products are produced.

(i)  Agricultural land and products include, but are not limited to the following:

·          Grains or row crops

·          Tobacco

·          Seed crops

·          Vegetables or fruits

·          Hay, forage, or pasture

·          Orchards or vineyards

·          Flowers or bulbs

·          Naval stores

·          Field-grown ornamentals

·          Plant materials, including those grown in greenhouses

·          Trees

·          Other agricultural commodities

·          Other crops used for subsistence

·          Other crops as identified by the State Conservationist

(ii)  Livestock production involves the growing, raising, or reproduction of livestock or livestock products for food or fiber including but not limited to the following:

·          Alpacas

·          Beef cattle

·          Bison

·          Dairy cattle

·          Fish or other animals raised by aquaculture

·          Horses

·          Llamas

·          Ratites

·          Poultry

·          Sheep or goats

·          Swine

·          Turkeys

·          All other livestock or fowl produced as part of agricultural operations on farms or ranches as identified by the State Conservationist

(iii)  Nonindustrial private forest land is rural land that—

·          Has existing tree cover or is suitable for growing trees.

·          Is owned by any nonindustrial private individual, group, association, corporation, Indian Tribe, or other private legal entity.

(2)  Be privately owned or Indian land.  Publicly owned land may be eligible if—

(i)  The land is a working component of the participant’s agricultural and operations.

(ii)  The participant has control of the land for the term of the contract.

(iii)  The conservation practices to be implemented on the public land are necessary and will contribute to an improvement in the identified resource concern.

(3)  Have permission of the landowner to install a structural practice on land not owned by the applicant.  Structural practices are those practices under the technical oversight of the State conservation engineer in each State.

(4)  Have an identified resource concern that may be addressed.

B.  Documenting Land Eligibility

The applicant is responsible for providing documentation to establish land eligibility for AMA.  The eligibility determination and applicable documentation must be filed in the case file.

C.  Ineligible Land

Land enrolled in other conservation programs may be ineligible for AMA.

AMA does not pay for the same practice enrolled on the same land as any other AMA contract or any other USDA conservation program.  If there is an overlap for any part of the same practice, that practice is considered a duplicative practice and not authorized under AMA.

[M_440_521_D - Amend. 79 - December 2010]

Subpart E - Fund Allocation

521.40  Allocation Process

A.  Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) is subject to the general allocation process outlined in Title 440, Conservation Programs Manual (CPM), Part 512, Subpart I, applicable to all financial assistance programs.

B.  National Allocation for Distribution to States

(1)  NRCS determines the allocation of AMA funds to NRCS State Conservationists using an allocation formula that reflects national priorities and uses available natural resource concerns data, such as—

(i)  The significance of the environmental and natural resource concern and the opportunity for environmental improvement.

(ii)  The program’s ability to assist producers in complying with Federal, State, local, and Tribal laws, quantified where possible.

(iii)  The amount of agricultural land in different land use categories, such as grazing land, specialty crops and others.

(iv) The degree of risk reduction resulting from the implementation of resource conservation practices for erosion control, integrated pest management, or transition to organic farming.

(v)  Other information relevant to meet the purposes of the program.

(2)  Requests for fund allocation changes will be submitted in accordance with the procedure found in 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart I, Section 512.84.

C.  State Allocation Distribution and Management

(1)  The State Conservationist will develop a formal fund allocation formula to direct funds to identified resource concerns at the State or local level.

(2)  The State Conservationist will identify State priority natural resource concerns that incorporate national priorities and measures and will use NRCS’s Integrated Accountability System (IAS) to establish local AMA performance goals and treatment objectives.

Note:  Priority resource concerns are related to natural resources and are not associated with farm type, operation type, or operator.

(3)  The State Conservationist will document decisions and rationale for allocation of funds to different natural resource concerns or to specific geographic areas within the State.  The following considerations will be taken into account when making such decisions:

(i)  The nature and extent of natural resource concerns at the State and local level.

(ii)  Goals, objectives, and solutions, quantified if possible, for the natural resource concerns, in order to optimize the benefits and natural resource priorities that would be delivered with the authorized Federal dollars.

(iii)  Science-based background data, quantified if possible, on the natural resources priorities, soils information, demographic information, and other available technical data that illustrate the nature and extent of natural resource concerns.

(iv)  The availability of human resources, incentive programs, education programs, and on-farm research programs from Federal, State, Indian Tribe, and local levels, both public and private, to assist with the activities related to the priority natural resource concerns.

(v)  The existence of multicounty or multistate collaborative efforts to address regional priority natural resource concerns.

(vi)  Methods of measuring performance and success.

(vii)  The degree of difficulty that producers face in complying with environmental laws and regulations.

D.  Performance Incentive

Each fiscal year, NRCS incorporates a portion of the initial AMA funding into the allocation as a reward for States that demonstrate a higher level of performance in achieving national priorities.  When determining the allocation of performance incentive funds to those States demonstrating higher levels of performance, the Chief of NRCS analyzes State AMA implementation performance, considering factors such as the following:

(i)  Cost effectiveness

(ii)  Timely practice implementation

(iii)  National priorities

(iv)  Technical service provider (TSP) implementation

E.  Unobligated Fiscal Year Funds

Form CPA-1202, “Conservation Program Contract” (CPC), must include the NRCS contract approver’s electronic signature and the participants’ original signature and date.  This form will be printed and maintained in the CPC case file for audit purposes (participants will not sign this duplicate copy of the form).  Form CPA-1155, “Conservation Plan or Schedule of Operations,” will have the designated conservationist’s signature.  These forms will be approved and signed in ProTracts by the agency’s annually established target date.  Balances not obligated by this date may be reallocated to other States.

F.  Allocation Control

The Foundation Financial Information System (FFIS) will always maintain the official status of funds, including allocations to States.  All State allocations will be aligned between FFIS and ProTracts.

           521.41  Funding Requirements

A.  Obligations Limited to Authorized Funds.—See 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart G.

B.  Overobligation is Prohibited.—See 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart I.

C.  Immediate Pay.—See 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart G.

D.  Unobligated Fiscal Year AMA Funds.—See 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart I.

E.  Deobligation of Prior Years Funds.—See 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart I.

[M_440_521_E` - Amend. 79 - December 2010]

Subpart F - Contract Application Acceptance and Evaluation

521.50  Applications

Continuous Application Acceptance

(1)  Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) applications will be accepted on a continuous basis throughout the year.  An application cutoff date will be scheduled. 

(i)  States must establish internal deadlines for each of the following:

·          Eligibility determinations

·          Ranking

·          Selection of applications for funding

·          Obligation of contracts

(ii)  NRCS will rank and select eligible applications received during the continuous signup period up to the application cutoff date.

(2)  The application cutoff date will be announced by NRCS, with assistance from partners.  See Title 440, Conservation Programs Manual (CPM), Part 521, Subpart C, for specific information and outreach requirements for National Headquarters, State offices, and field offices.

521.51 Application Guidance

A.  Accepting Applications

(1)  See 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart C, for guidance in accepting, processing, and evaluating AMA applications. 

(2)  The AMA application period is continuous and an application may be submitted at any time.  Applications taken after the application cutoff date will be held in the NRCS field office and processed for the next application cutoff date, regardless of whether the next cutoff date occurs in the current fiscal year or subsequent fiscal year.

B.  Signature Requirement

(1)  Eligible applicants wishing to participate in an AMA contract must submit Form NRCS-CPA-1200, “Application,” printed from the NRCS Program Contracts System (ProTracts) and signed and dated by an authorized person or representative of an entity.  See 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart C, for further explanation of requirements for program application.

(2)  Permission from the landowner is required to enter into a contract to install a structural practice on land that is not owned by the applicant.  Permission may be granted through a letter or other written concurrence from the landowner at the time of application or the landowner may sign the contract as a zero-percent shareholder to authorize structural conservation practices on their property.

(3)  Guidance on signature authority information for individuals and other business entities is contained in 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart C.

C.  Historically Underserved Producers

(1)  The term “historically underserved producer” means an eligible person or legal entity who is an Indian Tribe, beginning farmer or rancher, socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher, or limited-resource farmer or rancher.  By statute, participants eligible for AMA that meet the requirements of any of the historically underserved designation as outlined in 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart A, must be awarded the applicable payment rate and an additional rate that is not less that 25 percent above the applicable rate; however, the rate established may not exceed 90 percent.

(2)  Any applicant seeking the designation as historically underserved must self-certify eligibility when they submit an AMA application on Form NRCS-CPA-1200 and as outlined in 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart A.

521.52 Application Ranking Process

A.  General

(1)  The national ranking process, along with local screening tools, as applicable, will be used to select applications that optimize environmental benefits and achieve national, State, and local priorities for contracts, to the extent funding is available. 

(2)  The State Conservationist will—

(i)  Identify State priority natural resource concerns that directly contribute to meeting national priorities and measures.

(ii)  Determine how AMA funds in the State will be distributed to address priority natural resource concerns.

(iii)  Develop State screening tools, local screening tools, or both and State and local ranking questions that comply with 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart F, to use in the national ranking process to evaluate and prioritize AMA applications for funding.

(iv)  Develop appropriate funding pools to group similar crop, forestry, and livestock operations for the purposes of evaluation.  Ranking pools may address a specific priority natural resource concern, geographic area, or agricultural operation type.  Ranking criteria should be accompanied by written instructions to aid in consistent evaluation of applications.

(3)  Only practices requested to be part of the contract will be considered in the ranking process.

(4)  The State Conservationist may delegate the development of the screening tools and local ranking questions and the development of funding pools for the selection of applications for contracting to the designated conservationist.

(5)  The designated conservationist will take the following actions for all eligible applications:

(i)  Collect all of the information necessary to evaluate the applications.

(ii)  Conduct peer reviews of completed evaluations for consistency, accuracy, and to avoid the appearance of bias.

(iii)  Compile and prioritize the applications using the State-approved screening process, if applicable.

(iv)  Select the applications for funding based upon State-approved ranking thresholds that utilizes the Protracts Application Evaluation Ranking Tool (AERT).

(6)  The State Conservationist will ensure that all ranking and evaluation processes comply with NRCS regulations and policy guidance.

B.  Application Ranking Minimum Requirement

(1)  All application ranking evaluations will be performed using the AERT accessed through ProTracts (see 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart C).

(2)  The following factors must be used when ranking criteria for applications:

(i)  The degree of cost effectiveness of the proposed conservation practices.  The Protracts AERT efficiency score will evaluate each application based upon broad averages of the cost and environment benefits of each practice.

(ii)  The magnitude of the expected environmental benefits resulting from the conservation treatment and the priority of the resource concerns that have been identified at the local, Tribal, State, and national levels.

(iii)  How effectively and comprehensively the project addresses the priority natural resource concerns:

·          Applications that result in the greatest environmental improvement should receive a higher ranking.

·          All ranking processes and criteria must use the approved natural resource concerns that are listed in the Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG) for the specific area being proposed for treatment and identify the associated national, State, and local priorities that are addressed by this treatment.

(iv)  Use of conservation practices that provide long-term environmental enhancements.

(v)  Compliance with Federal, State, local, and Tribal regulatory requirements concerning soil, water, and air quality; wildlife habitat; and ground and surface water conservation.  Higher ranking should be given to plans that will help producers avoid regulatory requirements altogether, meet regulatory requirements, or reduce the potential for regulations.

(vi)  Willingness of the applicant to complete all conservation practices in an expedited manner.

(vii)  The ability to improve existing conservation practices or systems that are in place at the time the application is accepted or that complete a conservation system.

(viii)  Other locally defined pertinent factors, such as the location of the conservation practice, the extent of natural resource degradation, and the degree of cooperation by local producers to achieve environmental improvements.

(3)  If the State Conservationist determines that the environmental values of two or more applications for payments are comparable, the State Conservationist will not assign a higher priority to the application solely because it would present the least cost to the program.

(4)  When developing an application screening tools and ranking questions, the State Conservationist or designee may also consider—

(i)  An applicant’s history of proper operation and maintenance of practices installed with program assistance for the practice lifespan.

(ii)  Awarding negative ranking points for participants that have contracts that are not on schedule or have had previous contract terminations.

(iii)  Achieving a higher level of treatment.

C.  Process Examples

The evaluation (ranking) processes may include—

(i)  Grouping of applications to the greatest extent possible by similar crop or livestock operations for evaluation purposes in order to evaluate each application relative to other applications of similar farming operations.  Ranking pools may be developed to address a specific resource concern, geographic area or agricultural operation type.  However, in order to promote efficient and timely delivery of program assistance, States should limit creation of fund pool subaccounts in ProTracts to the minimum number of such accounts needed to effectively rank and approve applications.

(ii)  Developing and using a State or local screening tools that define a threshold level for high, medium, and low priority applications. 

·          Thresholds must be based on definitive target levels or benchmark conditions defined for that particular natural resource concern (see 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart C).

·          Threshold designations for eligible applications must be recorded in ProTracts.

(iii)  Using evaluation criteria based on identified resource concerns, developing packages based on treatment levels where applicants choose the package they agree to plan and implement and contracts are offered to applicants who optimize environmental benefits.

D.  Avoid Bias in the Ranking and Screening Process

(1)  The ranking criteria will be size- and class-neutral and will avoid criteria that might cause a bias for or against any individual group or size of operation.  See Application Evaluation Ranking Tool (AERT) Business Manual.  Otherwise-eligible program applications may not be determined ineligible or deferred based upon the size or extent of the producer ownership, area proposed for treatment or extent of practice, or activities to be addressed.

(2)  Controls for payment should be managed through development of appropriate payment schedules and scenarios and by establishment of practice payment caps.

(3)  Maximum practice payment caps are managed through the ProTracts system.  States may establish a maximum payment cap for any practice, but may not establish a maximum extent limitation (e.g., States may not establish a maximum number of acres to be supported through AMA for any practice, except for those practices with an interim practice standard).

(4)  Total contract payment limits may not be established other than what is authorized by statute or regulation.

E.  Application Funding

The State Conservationist or designated conservationist, as delegated, will periodically select the highest-ranked applications (based on applicant eligibility and the NRCS ranking process) for funding.  Applications within a funding pool must not be skipped to allow funding of a lower-ranked application.

F.  Update and Monitor the Ranking Process

The ranking process should be evaluated periodically to determine if the process is resulting in applications being selected for contracts that best meet the program objectives.

G.  Deferred Applications.—See 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart C.

H.  Disposition of Applications Not Selected for Funding.—See 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart C.

[M_440_521_F - Amend. 79 - December 2010]

Subpart G - AMA Plan of Operations

521.60  General Information

A.  Purpose and Use of Schedule of Operations

(1)  Both statute and regulation use the term “plan of operations.”  For the purpose of clarity and consistency, this manual refers to the plan of operations as the “AMA schedule of operations.”  The AMA schedule of operations is recorded on Form NRCS-CPA-1155, “Conservation Plan or Schedule of Operations.”  This document identifies the conservation practices to be implemented, the timing of the implementation, the practice location, and payment rates.

(2)  The AMA schedule of operations is derived from the participant’s conservation plan that is entered into Customer Service Toolkit (CST).  However, the conservation plan recorded in CST may not be the same as the AMA schedule of operations.

(i)  The AMA schedule of operations will only include practices that are financially supported by AMA and developed in accordance with Title 440, Conservation Programs Manual (CPM), Part 512, Subpart B.  These practices must be evaluated through the Application Evaluation Ranking Tool (AERT) in ProTracts to determine the ranking score of the application for funding.

(ii)  The conservation plan in CST may include practices in addition to the practices in the AMA schedule of operations.  The conservation plan includes all the practices, regardless of program financial assistance, that the participant has agreed to adopt in his or her operation as indicated in Title 180, General Manual (GM), Part 409, and Title 180, National Planning Procedures Handbook (NPPH), Part 600.

B.  Technical References and Approval

(1)  The AMA schedule of operations must be developed and carried out in accordance with the applicable NRCS technical guidance.  Technical references for planning and implementing conservation practices are as follows:

(i)  180-GM, Part 409

(ii)  180-NPPH, Part 600

(iii)  Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG and eFOTG)

(iv)  450-GM, Part 401

(v)  Title 450, National Handbook of Conservation Practices

(2)  An AMA schedule of operations is part of the contract and must be approved in the following order: approved by a certified conservation planner, signed and dated by the participant, and signed and dated by the NRCS approving official.

C.  Schedule of Operations Requirements

(1)  The AMA schedule of operation must include—

(i)  The participant’s name, contract number, and identification of the land units and acres included in the contract.

(ii)  A description of one or more conservation practices to be implemented to achieve the specific conservation and environmental objectives.

(iii)  A schedule of implementation of the planned conservation practices.

(iv)  Only practices approved in the FOTG that are consistent with the purpose and definition of the practice standard.

(v)  Only practices that address an approved natural resource concern.

(vi)  Certification of approval by the certified conservation planner, participant, and NRCS approving official.

(2)  The contract period must be for a minimum duration of 1 year after the completion of the last practice, but no more than 10 years.

(3)  All conservation practices and activities must be carried out in accordance with the FOTG.

(4)  If an AMA plan of operations includes the handling, storage, or treatment of manure or wastewater, the participant must develop a comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP) prior to the installation of any waste storage or handling facility or nutrient management activities.

(i)  The CNMP may be included in the contract that includes the waste storage or handling facility or nutrient management activities.

(ii)  Payment must not be issued until the CNMP has been provided to NRCS.

(iii)  Implementation of all the practices in the CNMP is required, regardless of financial assistance provided.

(5)  The State Conservationist may develop additional requirements to be included in the AMA schedule of operations.

D.  Supporting Documentation

Supporting documentation in the case file must include—

(i)  A description of the participant's specific conservation and environmental objectives to be achieved.

(ii)  A description of the specific resource concerns which will be addressed, including the tie-in to State and national priorities.

(iii)  Documentation supporting screening and ranking.

(iv)  To the extent practicable, the quantitative or qualitative goals for achieving the participant's conservation, natural resource, and environmental objectives in meeting national, State, and local priorities.

(v)  A description of one or more conservation practices or activities in the conservation management system, including conservation planning, design, or installation activities, to be implemented to achieve the conservation and environmental objectives.

(vi)  Information that will enable evaluation of the effectiveness of installed practices.

521.61  Conservation Practices and Planning Activities

A.  A conservation practice is one or more conservation improvements or conservation activities.

Improvements include structural practices, land management practices, vegetative practices, forest management practices, and other improvements that achieve program purposes.

B.  The State Conservationist will determine the eligible practices for AMA.  The State-approved list of eligible practices must be posted on the State Web site.  Those practices approved by the State Conservationist must meet the following criteria:

(1)  Approved in the FOTG and meet the purpose and definition of the practice standard

(2)  Provide beneficial natural resource conservation or environmental enhancements

(3)  Meet the intent of the program and identified natural resource concerns

(4)  Contain operation and maintenance requirements

(5)  Meet the requirements outlined in 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart B, and 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart G

C.  Eligible Practices and Activities with Policy Restrictions

(1)  Land Management Practices

Land management practices are those that require primarily management techniques and methods to implement the practice.  These practices have a lifespan of 1 year.

·          Payments for land management practices are limited to a maximum of three separate payments during the term of the contract.  Payment schedule scenarios may be constructed to allow for varying payment amounts depending upon the variation in costs incurred and income forgone for each year of payment.  Only payment schedules associated with management practices may include scenarios for multiyear payments.

·          Land management practices that address a higher level quality concern may be implemented again on the same land unit.

·          Producers may also apply for AMA financial assistance to implement a management practice to address a resource concern on land within the operation that has not been previously implemented.

(2)  Structural Practices

Structural practices are those that primarily involve the establishment, construction, installation of a site-specific measure to conserve, protect from degradation, or improve soil, water, or related natural resources in the most cost-effective manner.

·          Installation of structural practices on land not owned by the applicant requires permission from the landowner before the contract can be approved and obligated.

·          Retrofitting of structural practices is allowable provided that a higher level of conservation benefit (e.g., irrigation water conservation efficiency) can be documented.  Retrofitting will only be allowed if it is more cost efficient than an alternative replacement system.  Retrofitting must be approved by the State Conservationist as an AMA-eligible practice scenario prior to contracting. Retrofitting will not be allowed to replace components that are required to be maintained for normal operation of the system.

(3)  Portable Equipment

Portable equipment may only be purchased in accordance with 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart H.  The portable equipment may only be relocated to land that meets land eligibility requirements and that is included in the contract; therefore, the contract must include all the land where the equipment will be used.

(4)  New Technology

The State Conservationist may approve new technologies or innovative conservation practices where warranted.  Interim conservation practice standards will be developed for these practices before they are authorized for use and practices will be evaluated in accordance with 450-GM, Part 401.

D.  Ineligible Practices

(1)  Ineligible practices are those—

(i)  Where the sole purpose is to enhance production without an identifiable conservation benefit or natural resource concern.

(ii)  That the producer has already installed to address an identified resource concern on a specific land unit.  However, land management practices that address a higher level quality concern may be implemented again on the same land unit.  Producers may also apply for AMA financial assistance to implement a management practice to address a resource concern on land within the operation that has not been previously implemented.

(iii)  Practices that were commenced prior to contract obligation by the NRCS approving official, unless waived by the State Conservationist in accordance with 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart B.

(iv)  That the producer is likely to apply without AMA financial assistance, such as—

·          Practices a producer is required to establish as a result of a judicial or court action.

·          Practices required for repeated violations as determined at the State level.

Note:  Producers that have been accused of violating a law or regulation may still voluntarily apply a conservation practice to comply with the law or regulation.  The practice may be eligible for AMA financial assistance.

(v)  Vegetative practices that have previously received payment on the same land under the same AMA contract unless destroyed by reasons beyond the participant’s control.

(2)  In addition to ineligible practices, there are costs associated with practice implementation that are prohibited from payment.  Practice payment schedules will be developed in accordance with 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart H, and 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart D.

521.62  Quality Assurance and Oversight for AMA Planning and Implementation

A.  Procedure

Quality assurance will be performed by the State Conservationist and designated conservationist as a part of the ongoing quality assurance programs where technical and financial assistance is provided.

B.  Technical References

References for quality assurance of conservation planning and application include the following:

(i)  180-NPPH, Part 600

(ii)  FOTG

(iii)  450-GM, Part 407

(iv)  State quality assurance plan

[M_440_521_G - Amend. 79 - December 2010]

Subpart H - Conservation Payments and Payment Limitations

521.70  Payment Schedules

Policy guidance regarding payment schedules is located in Title 440, Conservation Programs Manual (CPM), Part 512, Subpart D.

           521.71  Determining Eligible Payment Schedule Costs

A.  Eligible Practice Costs

(1)  Payment rates are limited to the least-cost alternative to achieve the minimum practice standards and specifications needed to address the resource concerns.  The least-cost-alternative limitation is only applicable to payment rates and does not limit choice of treatment options.  However, treatment options must meet NRCS specifications, address the identified resource concern, and be approved by an individual with NRCS approval authority.

Example:  If minimum standards and specifications require a three-wire fence and the participant wants to install a woven wire fence that costs twice as much as the minimum acceptable standard, AMA will pay the minimum payment rate and any additional costs are borne by the participant.

(2)  The individual or entity is responsible for the expense of conservation practice installation.  The participant receiving the program benefit must also be the individual or entity that directly incurred the cost of the practice installation.

(3)  Items eligible to establish levels and rates include the cost of any direct or significant factors necessary to perform the practice, such as the following:

(i)  New, donated, or used materials (in accordance with NRCS policy)

(ii)  Services and labor from the participant or others

(iii)  Sales tax

(4)  When setting payment rates with regard to income foregone for AMA, the State Conservationist may accord greater significance to a practice that promotes increased environmental benefits or promotes residue management, nutrient management, air quality management, pollinator habitat, pest management, and animal carcass management technology.

(5)  Any practice where used materials are used may be eligible for payment according to criteria set forth in Title 210, National Engineering Manual (NEM), Part 512, Subpart C.

B.  Ineligible Costs

The following are examples and categories of ineligible costs, which may not be included in program payment schedules or supported through AMA contracts.  Such costs are usually ineligible as they may have no environmental or conservation benefit, are not allowed by the practice standard, may be considered a production-related activity, or there may be no statutory authority to provide program support.

(i)  Production costs associated with the normal production of crops, trees, or livestock operations including but not limited to—

·          Subsurface drainage installed solely to obtain better yields.

·          Forage or pest control or treatment solely for crop production.

·          Costs that are not directly related to the implementation of an NRCS approved conservation practice or not allowed by the NRCS practice standard.

·          Costs that are not incurred by the program participant, such as value of donated materials or labor.

·          Costs for education or training that are not directly related to implementation, operation, or maintenance of a conservation practice.

·          Costs associated with risk of agricultural operations, such as the potential loss of yield or production as the result of weather conditions or cultural activities.  Risks associated with the agricultural operation must be borne by the producer.

(ii)  Permits, fees, certifications, and miscellaneous production- or operation-related expenses not directly related to implementation of a practice

·          County earthmoving or NPDES permits

·          Building permits

·          Hookup fees for water or other utilities

·          404 permits or other regulatory permit costs

·          Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit

·          Organic certification fees

·          Normal administrative and overhead costs associated with agricultural operations such as telephone expenses, drinking water, fuel and lubricants for farm vehicles, replacement parts, electricity costs, photocopying, and similar activities

·          Repair costs of equipment used to construct conservation practice

·          Structures and components that are not part of the appropriate national standard, such as installing a composting facility under the heavy-use protection area standard or drilling a well as part of the pipeline standard

(iii)  Pest Management

A program payment for control or management of noxious or invasive weeds, insects, diseases, rodent, nematodes, predators, or other pests are prohibited.  Exception: Payments for suppression of noxious and invasive weeds on noncropland is allowed as part of the incurred cost to facilitate implementation of an NRCS-approved conservation practice.  For example, control of invasive or noxious plant species to support success of a range planting, critical area planting, or tree and shrub planting on noncropland is allowed.

(iv)  Equipment

·          Equipment to haul or apply manure

·          Spray or pesticide application equipment

·          Tillage or cultivation equipment

·          Other equipment not specifically addressed as being eligible for AMA funding or as determined by the NRCS conservation practice standard

(v)  Portable Equipment

Portable equipment raises important accountability issues in terms of providing program benefits to address an identified resource concern on eligible land.  For documentation of benefit through required ranking, NRCS must be able to associate the benefit with a specific land unit where the practice is implemented. If the practice standard includes portable equipment, it may only be relocated to land that meets land eligibility requirements and that is included in the contract.

·          Engines, motors, pumps and pumping equipment.  (Exception: Engine and motor replacement or retrofit may be allowed for an approved NRCS practice and identified resource concern.  For example, Practice 533 to replace an inefficient polluting engine to meet water conservation or air quality resource concerns.)

·          Motorized vehicles, such as trucks and tractors, whether on or off the farm.

(vi)  Residential Buildings

Energy production or conservation associated with residential buildings

(vii)  Electric Power

·          Running electrical lines from any power source to power equipment

·          Portable generators

·          Payment for electricity generated or needed to run equipment

(viii)  Transportation

Costs associated with transporting of manure to existing utilization sites are ineligible. (Exception:  Transportation costs associated with shifting manure utilization from an area of nutrient excess to an area where it can be applied at the proper agronomic rate consistent with a comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP)could be an eligible cost.)

(ix)  Extents and costs greater than technically needed to meet the minimum practice standards.  The least-cost standard must be applied to justify payments for practices to achieve the conservation objective.

·          Fencing specifications calls for two strands of wire and producer installs a four-strand fence.  AMA will only pay based on two-strand fence.

·          A concrete-walled manure storage structure where a less-expensive earthen structure would serve the resource need.

·          Constructing a bridge instead of a stream crossing where a stream crossing is more cost effective.

(x)  Property Rights and Access

·          Payments for obtaining an easement or right-of-way

·          Payments for river access

(xi)  Buildings

·          Any part of a building used for livestock housing or feeding

·          A roofed heavy-use protection area or storage area that would provide more then incidental livestock housing (at least 75 percent of building must be solely for waste storage or water quality concerns)

521.72  Payments and Payment Limitations

A.  Eligibility for Payments

(1)  Participants who share in the cost of installing the practices required by the AMA contract are eligible to receive AMA financial assistance, with the following exceptions:

(i)  Federal and State agencies, political subdivisions, and entities thereof

(ii)  Cooperative associations of producers that market commodities or provide services for producers

(iii)  Producer organizations and cooperatives that provide support to agricultural producers

Note:  Foreign individuals and entities and cash rent tenants are eligible to receive AMA payments as long as they meet all other eligibility criteria, including control of the land for the life of the contract.

(2)  A participant is not eligible for payments for conservation practices on eligible land if the participant receives payments or other benefits for the same practice on the same land under any other conservation program administered by USDA.  The participant and NRCS must certify that a conservation practice is completed in accordance with the contract before NRCS will approve any payment.

B.  Payment Rates

AMA participants are eligible for financial assistance payments of up to 75 percent of the estimated incurred cost and up to 100 percent of the estimated income foregone.  Historically underserved producers may be eligible for an additional rate that is not less than 25 percent, provided the increase does not exceed 90 percent of the established payment rate.

C. Reviewing and Revising Levels and Rates

(1)  NRCS will periodically review payment rates to ascertain that they are set at the minimum incentive needed to encourage producer participation to address a resource concern.

(2)  Subject to fund availability, the payment rates for conservation practices scheduled after the year of contract obligation may be adjusted to reflect increased costs.  The adjustment of payment schedules will be with the “index payment rate” (see 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart G, Section 512.60H).

D.  Determining Payment Limitations

(1)  ProTracts will use Web service information available from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to determine the following information, which is necessary to track payment limitations:

(i)  Names and employee identification numbers of all members of the entity

(ii)  Names of all members of any embedded entities

(iii)  Percentage share for all members

(iv)  Social Security numbers for all members, if applicable (American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders may use another unique identification number for each individual eligible for payment)

(2)  Exceptions:

(i)  Foreign individuals and members of foreign entities must obtain and provide a Federal identification number.

(ii)  With regard to contracts on Indian land to participants represented by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) or a Tribal official, the BIA or Tribal official must certify in writing that no one individual directly or indirectly will receive more than the payment limitation.

E.  Program Payment Limitation

The total AMA (NRCS, Risk Management Agency (RMA), and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)) cost-share payments paid per participant may not exceed $50,000 for any fiscal year.

Note:  A contract with more than one person may earn more than $50,000 per fiscal year, if no one individual receives more than the set limit per year.

F.  Controlling Payment Limitation

(1)  NRCS staff must advise AMA participants that by signing the program contract appendix (NRCS-CPA-1202), they are certifying they will not receive payments from AMA in excess of the payment limitation of $50,000 per fiscal year from all sources (NRCS, RMA, and AMS).  This statement is item 15 in the agreement section of the contract appendix.

(2)  The designated conservationist will require that the participant complete the producer self-certification in Section 521.111, “Template for Producer Self-Certification – Fiscal Year (enter the current fiscal year) Payments.”

(i)  If the answer is “I will not be receiving AMA payments from the Risk Management Agency (RMA) or Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) in this fiscal year,” the participant must sign and date the certification and NRCS will continue to process the request for payment.

(ii)  If the answer is “I have received or will be receiving AMA payments from the Risk Management Agency (RMA) or Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) in this fiscal year,” the participant must state the amount of payment they have received or expect to receive from AMS and RMA, sign and date the certification.  NRCS may then have to reduce the amount of the NRCS payment the participant is receiving in order to comply with the payment limitation of $50,000 per fiscal year.

(3)  Financial Assistance and Community Development (FACD) will coordinate annually with RMA and AMS to receive fiscal year reports containing participant names and payment amounts.

(i)  RMA and AMS fiscal year reports cannot be generated until after the end of the fiscal year as their program payments are third-party payments made through crop insurance agents and State departments of agriculture.  The information must then be collected and assembled by RMA and AMS.  As soon as these reports are generated by RMA and AMS, they will be provided to FACD, which will, in turn, provide the reports to State Conservationists for their dissemination to field offices.

(ii)  The field offices will use the information in these reports to cross-check against the NRCS participant names and payment amounts for the fiscal year.  If an NRCS AMA payment to a producer has resulted in total payments in excess of $50,000, NRCS must take action to collect back the amount in excess of $50,000.

G.  Exceeding Payment Limitation

(1)  If the payment limitation is exceeded because of an NRCS error, a refund is required from the participant for the amount exceeding the payment limitation.

(2)  If the payment limitation is exceeded because of an AMS or RMA error, then the applicable agency will seek a refund from the participant for the amount exceeding the payment limitation.

[M_440_521_H - Amend. 79 - December 2010]

Subpart I - Contracts, Payments, and General Administrative Requirements

           521.80  Contract Requirements

See Title 440, Conservation Programs Manual (CPM), Part 512, Subpart E, “Contracting.”

           521.81  Compliance with Laws and Regulations

All contracts will be administered in accordance with Federal, State, and local laws and ordinances.

           521.82  Environmental Services Credits for Conservation Improvements

A.  NRCS recognizes that environmental benefits will be achieved by implementing conservation practices funded through Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA).  These environmental benefits may result in opportunities for the program participant to sell environmental credits.  These environmental credits must be compatible with the purposes of the program contract.  NRCS asserts no direct or indirect interest on these credits.  However, NRCS retains the authority to ensure that operation and maintenance (O&M) requirements for AMA-funded improvements are met.

B.  Where activities may impact the land and conservation practices under an AMA contract, participants are highly encouraged to request an O&M compatibility assessment from NRCS prior to entering into any credit agreement.  This assessment would be a simple evaluation to determine if the actions to be taken would jeopardize compliance with an AMA contract, including O&M requirements of a practice or system funded by NRCS.  This assessment will be documented in the assistance notes and a letter provided to the client (see sample letter in 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart J, Section 512.91).  These assessments should be conducted the same as those done for contract reviews (see 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart F, Section 512.55).

521.83  Contract Modifications

See 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart F.

521.84  Equitable Relief

Public Law 107-171, the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, Section 1613 (2002 Farm Bill) has set forth provisions where NRCS program participants, as defined at section 1613(a)(3), may apply for equitable relief when a determination of noncompliance with a provision of the contract, the O&M agreement, or any document incorporated by reference has been issued and the participant believes it occurred due to detrimental reliance on the advice or action of a NRCS representative.  Equitable relief guidance can be found in 440-CPM, Part 509.

521.85  Canceling and Terminating Contracts

See 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart F. 

521.86  Recovery of Costs

See 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart F.

521.87  Payment Procedures

All AMA payments will be processed in accordance with 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart G.

[M_440_521_I - Amend. 79 - December 2010]

Subpart J - Appeals

521.90  Appeals

A.  Appeal Process

All Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) appeals will be handled in accordance with Title 440, Conservation Programs Manual (CPM), Part 510, and, if appropriate, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) Handbook 1-APP.  The applicable regulations for appeals are 7 CFR Part 614, “NRCS Appeals Procedures”; 7 CFR Part 780, “FSA Appeals Procedures”; and 7 CFR Part 11, “National Appeals Division (NAD) Rules of Procedure.”

B.  Actions Not Appealable

In accordance with the provisions of Public Law 103-354, the Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994 (7 U.S.C. Section 6991 et seq.), and as set forth in the National Appeals Division Rules of Procedure, 7 CFR Section 11.6(a)(2), it “…shall [be] determined whether the decision is adverse to the individual participant, and thus appealable, or is a matter of general applicability, and thus not subject to appeal....”  Actions and decisions that are generally applicable to all participants in the Nation, State, or Tribes and are not specifically adverse to a participant in AMA are not appealable, such as the following:

(i)  Payment limits and payment rates

(ii)  Identification of priority natural resource concerns or areas in the ranking criteria

(iii)  Funding allocations, funding levels, and funding decisions

(iv)  Eligible conservation practices

(v)  NRCS conservation practice standards and specifications and other technical criteria

(vi)  The application ranking and the screening process

(vii)  Science-based formulas and criteria

(viii)  Other matters of general applicability

(ix)  Matters of regulation and law that expressly provide for the action taken

(x)  Denial of program participation due to a current lack of program funds

521.91  Handling Adverse Decisions

A.  Adverse Decisions

NRCS may make different types of decisions regarding an AMA participant depending on the basis for the decision.  Many of the decisions that will be issued to a program participant will be about contract or program administration, (e.g., eligibility, violation, loss of control of the land under contract, payment ineligibility).  However, some adverse decisions issued for AMA may be strictly technical in nature (i.e., failure to complete a conservation practice according to FOTG standards).  There are significant differences in the appeals procedures used for technical determinations as opposed to program decisions.

(1)  Technical Determinations

(i)  These types of decisions must be issued appeal rights specified in 7 CFR Sections 614.7 and 614.8, which provide for review and reconsideration, mediation, or expedited finality at the preliminary determination level and an informal appeal hearing by either the FSA county committee (COC) or a formal appeal review by the National Appeals Division (NAD) at the final technical determination level.  It is important that all steps are completely and correctly followed so that the participant cannot claim that the proper appeal rights were not afforded for a particular determination.

(ii)  Preliminary technical determinations must also undergo a review by the NRCS State Conservationist if, upon reconsideration, the determination remains adverse to the participant.  This review will ensure that the technical determination is fully supported by the record and conforms to the specific program regulation.  If one or both of these items are found to be in question, the State Conservationist may either remand the determination to the field office to redo the determination or have another employee conduct a new determination.

(2)  Program Decisions

(i)  Program decisions are defined as “…written decision[s] by NRCS concerning eligibility for program benefits, program administration or program implementation and [are] based upon applicable regulations and program instructions.”  Program decisions are issued as final decisions that achieve finality upon receipt by the program participant (see 7 CFR 614.2(o)).

(ii)  Program decisions can be based on a technical aspect, yet, due to the nature of the decision, be considered as a program decision.  Examples of program decisions include but are not limited to the following:

·          Program eligibility decisions

·          Program ranking decisions

·          Program violations (even if they have a technical basis)

·          Recovery of costs due to loss of control of the contract acreage

·          Failure to start a contracted practice within the first 12 months of a contract

(iii)  The appeal rights for a program decision according to 7 CFR Section 614.9 include mediation, informal appeal to either the FSA COC or the State Conservationist, or formal appeal to NAD.

Note:  Only those actions that are considered to be appealable will be given appeal rights.  See 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart J, for AMA actions considered not to be appealable.  The AMA participant has the right to request a NAD appealability review for determinations or decisions that NRCS has determined not to be appealable (see 440-CPM, Part 521, Subpart J; 7 CFR Section 614.13; and 7 CFR Section 11.6(a)).

           521.92  Appeals and Decisions

FSA Determination Appeals

FSA committee responsibilities are defined in 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart A.  Eligibility decisions rendered by the FSA committee will be included in the overall eligibility decision issued by NRCS as these decisions are not appealable due to being issued by another Federal agency at the request of NRCS (7 CFR Section 614.4(b)(6)).

           521.93  Notification Requirements

A.  Notification of Nonappealable Issues

Participants must be notified in writing by NRCS if the action is not appealable.  The notice must include both of the following:

(i)  The participant’s right to request a NAD appealability review within 30 calendar days of receipt of the adverse decision that the action is not appealable.

(ii)  The address of the NAD regional assistant director.

B.  Appeals in Writing

(1)  All adverse decisions, except those that are not appealable as provided in section 521.90 must be provided to the AMA participant in writing not later than 10 calendar days after the decision has been reached.  Appeal rights must be provided on all adverse decisions or determinations as provided in section 521.90C.

(2)  A participant’s request for appeal is considered filed when the participant makes a written request to any of the appeal venues provided by hand or when NRCS receives a properly addressed appeal, in a postage paid envelope postmarked no later than 30 days from the date that the participant received the adverse decision.  All requests for appeal must include a copy of the adverse decision being appealed.

Note:  If NRCS did not send the adverse decision with any delivery notification, then timelines are calculated using the date of the adverse decision plus seven days for mailing.  NAD uses the same procedure for determining timeliness on NRCS adverse decisions issued without delivery notification.

[M_440_521_J - Amend. 79 - December 2010]

Subpart K - Program Evaluation and Assessment

521.100  Evaluation and Assessment Process

A.  National Assessment

(1)  The Deputy Chief for Financial Assistance and Community Development must—

(i)  Establish national performance indicators.

(ii)  Compile baseline data from states.

(iii)  Compile program accomplishments.

(iv)  Compile national-level information on amount of program funds targeted and expended on livestock-related natural resource concerns.

(v)  Compile national-level information on the amount of program funds targeted and expended on beginning, socially disadvantaged, and limited resource farmers and ranchers.

(2)  National program assessments will be done by aggregating assessments, data, and information from other levels in order to provide a national summary of overall program performance.

B.  Periodic Evaluation

Evaluations at all levels will be performed on an annual basis, except in cases where evaluation is presumed to be more critical and needed on a more frequent basis.

C.  Civil Rights Assessment

At all levels, program managers will compile information concerning the outreach to and participation of producers by race, sex, and national origin.  This information will be used to assess whether satisfactory efforts have been made to ensure that limited-resource producers, socially disadvantaged producers, and others who may not have historically participated in previous conservation programs are being equitably served in AMA.

[M_440_521_K - Amend. 79 - December 2010]

Subpart L - Exhibits

521.110  Forms and Sample Letters

See Title 440, Conservation Programs Manual (CPM), Part 512, Subpart J.

521.111  Life Span of Conservation Practices

A.  Lifespan of Conservation Practices 

(1)  See 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart B, Section 512.11D, for contract requirements related to practice lifespan. Conservation practice lifespans are established and maintained in the Conservation Practice Standards (CPS) Web application.  States may also post the State-determined lifespan in section IV of the electronic Field Office Technical Guide.

(2)  A “lifespan” is the period of time specified in the contract during which the conservation practice or conservation system must be maintained and used for its intended purpose.
See 440-CPM, Part 502.

B.  Agricultural Management Assistance Contract Payment Item Codes

See 440-CPM, Part 512, Subpart D.

C.  Practice Resource Concerns

See Title 180, National Planning Procedures Handbook, Part 600.

521.112  Template for Producer Self-Certification – Fiscal Year Payments

All participants must use the producer self-certification template when applying for AMA payments to be received from NRCS.  The participant must indicate whether he or she will be receiving AMA fiscal year payments from either the Risk Management Agency or Agricultural Marketing Service.  The template must be completed in its entirety, signed by the participant, and placed in the participant’s contract file.

[M_440_521_L - Amend. 79 - December 2010]