Last week, USDA notified producers of their obligation to comply with conservation regulations in order to buy crop insurance. Although this obligation was previously required for participation in a number of federal agricultural support programs, it is an entirely new mandate for the fruit and vegetable industry under the 2014 Farm Bill.

The Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association expressed strong reservations to Congress and to USDA as this requirement was being considered because it will affect certain producers more significantly than others, depending on the commodity they produce and the type of land they are farming. Now that it has become law, FFVA and the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance are working with USDA to provide accurate information to our industry.

In Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s statement, he specifically advises that all producers must file new paperwork with their local Farm Service Agency office. “It’s important that farmers and ranchers taking the right steps to conserve valuable farm and natural resources have completed AD-1026 forms on file at their local Farm Service Agency office,” he said. “This will ensure they remain eligible for crop insurance support.”

As FFVA understands it, even though permanent crops (defined as those commodities that are produced without “annual tilling of the soil”) are largely exempted from this requirement, the paperwork must still be filed in order to remain eligible for the federal subsidy under the various crop insurance programs.

For those crops that are annually tilled, there may be an obligation to have a certified conservation plan in place along with other restrictions, depending on whether the land is defined by USDA as highly erodible or wetlands.

FFVA will provide more information as it becomes available. USDA is planning a listening session in Gainesville on Aug. 7 to further discuss and take input from industry.