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Conservation Practice Technical Assistance

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AGENCY:

Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture.

ACTION:

Notice; request for comment.

SUMMARY:

Section 1242(h) of the Food Security Act of 1985, as amended by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Act), requires that the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS): (1) Review conservation practice standards, including engineering design specifications, in effect on June 18, 2008; (2) ensure the completeness and relevance of the standards to local agricultural, forestry, and natural resource needs including specialty crops, native and managed pollinators, bioenergy crop production, forestry, and other such needs as determined by the Secretary; and (3) ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, that the standards provide for the optimal balance between meeting site-specific conservation needs and minimizing risks of design failure and associated costs of construction and installation. NRCS conducted an internal review of the conservation practice standards and met with various stakeholder groups, as required by section 1242(h)(2), to obtain their input about how to improve the completeness and relevance of the standards. NRCS is hereby notifying the public of the results of the preliminary review and requests comments from the public about how to improve the conservation practice standards to meet the goals and objectives of Section 1242(h) of the Food Security Act of 1985, as amended.

DATES:

Comment Date: Submit comments on or before August 11, 2009.

ADDRESSES:

You may send comments using any of the following methods:

  • Government-wide rulemaking Web site: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the instructions for sending comments electronically.
  • Mail: Norman Widman, National Agronomist, Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Conservation Practice Standard Comments, Post Office Box 2890, Washington, DC 20013.
  • Fax: (202) 720-5334.
  • E-mail: nrcscpta2008@wdc.usda.gov.
  • Hand Delivery: USDA South Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Room 5234, Washington, DC 20250, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal Holidays. Please ask the guard at the entrance to the South Building to call (202) 720-4630 in order to be escorted into the building.
  • This notice may be accessed via Internet. Users can access the NRCS homepage at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/​; select the Farm Bill link from the menu; select Notices. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication (braille, large print, audio tape, etc.) should contact the USDA TARGET Center at: (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD).
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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Norman Widman, National Agronomist, Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, P.O. Box 2890, Washington, DC 20013-2890; or e-mail: norm.widman@wdc.usda.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

NRCS provides technical assistance to clients through the conservation planning process. The planning process involves: (1) Determining the client goals and resource concerns (conservation needs), (2) developing of treatment options, (3) recording the client's decisions, and (4) evaluating the conservation treatment. The conservation practice standards used to apply conservation contain information on why and where the practice is applied, and sets forth the minimum technical criteria that must be met during the application of that practice in order for it to achieve its intended purposes. The engineering design specifications address how the practice is to be applied or installed and are developed for site-specific conditions. Conservation practices are designed to address the treatment of resource needs and are not directed to specific types of farming or commodities.

Agricultural and environmental groups expressed concern during the development of the 2008 Act that NRCS conservation practice standards did not adequately address or have relevance to particular types of farming operations or natural resource needs. As a result of those concerns, Section 2706 of the 2008 Act amended Section 1242(h)(1) of the Food Security Act of 1985 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to review conservation practice standards, including engineering design specifications, in effect on June 18, 2008; ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, the completeness and relevance of the standards to local agricultural, forestry, and natural resource needs, including specialty crops, native and managed pollinators, bioenergy crop production, forestry, and such other needs as are determined by the Secretary; and ensure that the standards provide for the optimal balance between meeting site-specific conservation needs and minimizing risks of design failure and associated costs of construction and installation. Section 1242(h)(2) of the Food Security Act of 1985, as amended, requires the Secretary, in conducting the review of the conservation practice standards, to consult with eligible participants, crop consultants, cooperative extension and Land Grant Universities, nongovernmental organizations, and other qualified entities. Additionally, if any revisions to the conservation practice standards are determined necessary, the Secretary is required to establish an administrative process for expediting the revisions.

During July 2008 through September 2008, NRCS conducted a preliminary internal review of all conservation practice standards (at both the national and State levels) by technical discipline leaders to evaluate the practice applicability to organic farming, specialty crops, precision agriculture, pollinators, bio-energy production, and forestry. Through its internal review, NRCS made the following preliminary determinations:

1. NRCS conservation practice standards have the flexibility to address the resource needs on all types of farming operations and resource interests, including those specified in Start Printed Page 27996section 1242(h). NRCS will modify selected practices to better clarify their relevance to local agricultural, forestry, and natural resource needs, including specialty crops, native and managed pollinators, and bioenergy crop production.

2. Practices are designed to balance design, construction, and installation with minimal risk of failure.

3. NRCS field staff would benefit from additional training to better apply our current practices on non-traditional farming operations.

4. NRCS needs to recognize the special needs of the non-traditional farming operations when payment schedules are developed.

In addition to its internal review, NRCS met with several different groups representing organic agriculture, specialty crop production, forestry, pollinators, and precision farming to discuss our conservation practice standards and technical assistance. This meeting took place in December 2008 at the NRCS National Headquarters in Washington, DC. The results of the national and State conservation practice review were discussed with those present, and they were asked to send comments concerning the review by January 9, 2009. No comments were received.

In order to obtain the widest possible input and to ensure NRCS fully meets the intent and spirit of the Section 1242(h) conservation practice review requirements, NRCS is now seeking further comments from the public on its conservation practice standards through August 11, 2009. A list of all the USDA-NRCS National Conservation Practice Standards (166) is attached as an Appendix to this Notice. The specific content of the standards can be found at the following URL: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/​technical/​standards/​nhcp.html. NRCS requests public input on the relevance of any particular conservation practice to meet the needs the different types of farming operations and resource needs, or how any particular conservation practice can be modified or improved to achieve such goals. NRCS will publish in the Federal Register the final results of the conservation practice review and the modifications made in response to such review.

As required by section 1242(h)(3), NRCS has a process to expedite any revisions to the conservation practice standards necessitated by this review. This process includes the following options: (1) Revising the conservation practice at the national level by the national technical leader, (2) revising the conservation practice at the State level by the State technical leader, or (3) the State Conservationist can request a conservation practice variance from the NRCS National Headquarters.

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Signed this 4th day of June, 2009, in Washington, DC.

Dave White,

Chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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Appendix

List of NRCS National Conservation Practice Standards; http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/​technical/​standards/​nhcp.html.

CodeConservation practice title
431Above Ground, Multi-Outlet Pipeline (ft).
472Access Control (ac).
560Access Road (ft).
309Agrichemical Handling Facility (no).
311Alley Cropping (ac).
591Amendments for Treatment of Agricultural Waste.
365Anaerobic Digester, Ambient Temperature (no).
366Anaerobic Digester, Controlled Temperature (no).
316Animal Mortality Facility (no).
575Animal Trails and Walkways (ft).
450Anionic Polyacrylamide (PAM) Erosion Control (ac).
397Aquaculture Ponds (ac).
370Atmospheric Resources Quality Management (ac),
310Bedding (ac).
314Brush Management (ac).
322Channel Bank Vegetation (ac).
584Channel Stabilization (ft).
326Clearing & Snagging (ft).
360Closure of Waste Impoundments (no).
317Composting Facility (no).
327Conservation Cover (ac).
328Conservation Crop Rotation (ac).
656Constructed Wetland (no).
332Contour Buffer Strips (ac).
330Contour Farming (ac).
331Contour Orchard and Other Fruit Areas (ac).
340Cover Crop (ac).
342Critical Area Planting (ac).
589ACross Wind Ridges (ac).
589CCross Wind Trap Strips (ac).
348Dam, Diversion (no).
402Dam (no & ac-ft).
324Deep Tillage (ac).
356Dike (ft).
362Diversion (ft).
554Drainage Water Management (ac).
432Dry Hydrant (no).
647Early Successional Habitat Development/Mgt. (ac).
592Feed Management (no & au).
382Fence (ft).
386Field Border (ft).
393Filter Strip (ac).
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394Firebreak (ft).
396Fish Passage (mi).
398Fish Raceway or Tank (ft & ft3).
399Fishpond Management (no).
511Forage Harvest Management (ac).
384Forest Slash Treatment (ac).
666Forest Stand Improvement (ac).
655Forest Trails and Landings (ac).
383Fuel Break (ac).
410Grade Stabilization Structure (no).
412Grassed Waterway (ac).
548Grazing Land Mechanical Treatment (ac).
561Heavy Use Area Protection (ac).
422Hedgerow Planting (ft).
603Herbaceous Wind Barriers (ft).
423Hillside Ditch (ft).
320Irrigation Canal or Lateral (ft).
388Irrigation Field Ditch (ft).
464Irrigation Land Leveling (ac).
552Irrigation Regulating Reservoir (no).
436Irrigation Storage Reservoir (no & ac-ft).
441Irrigation System Microirrigation (no & ac).
442Irrigation System Sprinkler (no & ac).
443Irrigation System Surface & Subsurface (no & ac).
447Irrigation System, Tailwater Recovery (no).
428AIrrigation Water Conveyance, Ditch and Channel Lining, Plain Concrete (ft).
428BIrrigation Water Conveyance, Ditch and Channel Lining, Flexible Membrane (ft).
428CIrrigation Water Conveyance, Ditch and Channel Lining, Galvanized Steel (ft).
430AAPipeline, Aluminum Tubing (ft).
430BBPipeline, Asbestos-Cement (ft).
430CCPipeline, Nonreinforced Concrete (ft).
430DDPipeline, High-pressure, Underground, Plastic (ft).
430EEPipeline, Low-pressure, Underground, Plastic (ft).
430FFPipeline, Steel (ft).
430GGPipeline, Reinforced Plastic Mortar (ft).
449Irrigation Water Management (ac).
460Land Clearing (ac).
543Land Reclamation, Abandoned Mined Land (ac).
544Land Reclamation, Currently Mined Land (ac).
453Land Reclamation, Landslide Treatment (no & ac).
455Land Reclamation, Toxic Discharge Control (no).
466Land Smoothing (ac).
468Lined Waterway or Outlet (ft).
634Waste Transfer (no).
457Mine Shaft & Adit Closing (no).
482Mole Drain (ft).
353Monitoring Well (ea).
484Mulching (ac).
379Multi-Story Cropping.
590Nutrient Management (ac).
500Obstruction Removal (ac).
582Open Channel (ft).
512Pasture & Hay Planting (ac).
595Pest Management (ac).
516Pipeline (ft).
378Pond (no).
521CPond Sealing or Lining, Bentonite Sealant (no).
521APond Sealing or Lining, Flexible Membrane (no).
521BPond Sealing or Lining, Soil Dispersant (no).
521DPond Sealing or Lining, Compacted Clay Treatment (no).
462Precision Land Forming (ac).
338Prescribed Burning (ac).
409Prescribed Forestry (ac).
528Prescribed Grazing (ac).
533Pumping Plant (no).
550Range Planting (ac).
562Recreation Area Improvement (ac).
566Recreation Land Grading and Shaping (ac).
568Recreation Trail and Walkway (ft).
329Residue and Tillage Management, No Till/Strip Till/Direct Seed (ac).
345Residue and Tillage Management, Mulch Till (ac).
346Residue and Tillage Management, Ridge Till (ac).
344Residue Management, Seasonal (ac).
643Restoration and Management of Rare or Declining Habitats (ac).
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391Riparian Forest Buffer (ac).
390Riparian Herbaceous Cover (ac).
555Rock Barrier (ft).
558Roof Runoff Structure (no).
557Row Arrangement (ac).
570Runoff Management System (no & ac).
610Salinity and Sodic Soil Management (ac).
350Sediment Basin (no).
646Shallow Water Development and Management (ac).
381Silvopasture Establishment (ac).
527Sinkhole and Sinkhole Area Treatment (no).
632Solid/Liquid Waste Separation Facility.
572Spoil Spreading (ac).
574Spring Development (no).
580Streambank and Shoreline Protection (ft).
578Stream Crossing (no).
395Stream Habitat Improvement and Management (ac).
585Stripcropping (ac).
587Structure for Water Control (no).
606Subsurface Drain (ft).
607Surface Drainage, Field Ditch (ft).
608Surface Drainage, Main or Lateral (ft).
609Surface Roughening (ac).
600Terrace (ft, m).
612Tree/Shrub Establishment (ac).
490Tree/Shrub Site Preparation (ac).
660Tree/Shrub Pruning (ac).
620Underground Outlet (ft).
645Upland Wildlife Habitat Management (ac).
635Vegetated Treatment Area (ac).
601Vegetative Barrier (ft).
630Vertical Drain (no).
367Waste Facility Cover (no).
313Waste Storage Facility (no).
629Waste Treatment.
359Waste Treatment Lagoon (no).
633Waste Utilization (ac).
636Water Harvesting Catchment (no).
614Watering Facility (no).
638Water and Sediment Control Basin (no).
640Waterspreading (ac).
642Water Well (no).
351Well Decommissioning (no).
355Well Water Testing (no).
658Wetland Creation (ac).
659Wetland Enhancement (ac).
657Wetland Restoration (ac).
644Wetland Wildlife Habitat Management (ac).
380Windbreak/Shelterbelt Establishment (ft).
650Windbreak/Shelterbelt Renovation (ft).
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[FR Doc. E9-13870 Filed 6-11-09; 8:45 am]

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