127.11 Farmland Conversion

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Forms
AD-1006 Form
SCS-CPA-106 Form


Contents

127.11.1 Introduction

127.11.1.1 Overview

The Farmland Protection Policy Act (FPPA) mandates that federal agencies consider the impact of their activities on farmland. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has published a rule for implementing this act. The FPPA applies to all federal projects (i.e., projects that are paid for with federal funding), which take any right of way or permanent easement. The FPPA requires that the Federal Highway Adminstration (FHWA) and MoDOT identify and take into account the adverse effects that projects have on the preservation of farmland, consider alternative actions, as appropriate, that could lessen adverse effects, and to ensure that programs and projects, to the extent practicable, are compatible with state and units of local governments, and private programs and policies to protect farmland. Both the relative value of the soils present on the site and the impact the project will have on the area relative to agricultural use are considered when determining project impacts to farmland.

127.11.1.2 Laws, Regulations and Guidance

  • The Farmland Protection Policy Act (FPPA) (7 U.S.C. 658) of 1981 has as its purpose “to minimize the extent to which Federal programs contribute to the unnecessary and irreversible conversion of farmland to nonagricultural uses, and to assure that Federal programs are administered in a manner that, to the extent practicable, will be compatible with State, unit of local government, and private programs and policies to protect farmland.”
  • FPPA (7 CFR 658) as amended at 59 Federal Register 31117 (June 17, 1994).
  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969
  • Implementing the Final Rule of the Farmland Protection Policy Act for Highway Projects, FHWA (May 1989). Explains how to complete farmland impact analysis in National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents (or for projects that do not require a NEPA document) to gain FHWA approval.
  • Supplemental guidance for Implementation of Farmland Protection Policy Act, FHWA Memorandum to Regions (January 23, 1985). Identifies two additional areas where FHWA guidance is necessary.

127.11.1.3 Applicability

The FPPA governs impacts to farmland only. Farmland, according to the FPPA, is defined as prime farmland, unique farmland or farmland that is of state or local importance. These terms are further defined in 7 USC 4201(c)(1) and 7 CFR 658.2(a).

Land that is already in or committed to urban development or water storage does not qualify as farmland and is therefore not subject to the FPPA. As per 7 CFR 658.2(a), land that meets any one of the following criteria is considered already committed to urban development or water storage:

1. Land with a density of 30 structures or more per 40 acre area.
2. Land identified as an “urbanized area” (UA) on the Census Bureau Map.
3. Land mapped as an urban area using the tint-overprint on the USGS topographical maps.
4. Land shown as “urban-built-up” on the USDA Important Farmland Maps.
5. Land that receives a combined score of 160 or fewer points for the Land Evaluation (Part V) and Site Assessment (Part VI) criteria on the Farmland Conversion Impact Rating Form.

127.11.1.4 Process

Acting for FHWA, the MoDOT environmental specialist, in coordination with NRCS, completes either a AD-1006 Form (for sites) or a SCS-CPA-106 Form (for corridors) to evaluate farmland impact for every project that requires any right of way and/or permanent easement. For projects that require an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the EA or Draft EIS must include a copy of the completed form. For projects classified as a Categorical Exclusion (CE), a copy of the completed form is retained in the environmental files to document the coordination with NRCS.

Land classified as an urbanized area (UA) or water storage is not subject to the FPPA and such land will not require further evaluation. For areas that do not fit this definition, the environmental specialist completes Parts I and III of the appropriate Farmland Conversion Impact Rating Form with the total amounts of new right of way and/or permanent easement acreages as provided on the Request for Environmental Services (RES) submitted by the district. Once these sections are completed, the environmental specialist submits the form, along with the necessary supporting documentation, to the appropriate NRCS Resource Soil Scientist from one of the 4 NRCS Area Contacts in the state. The NRCS contact then completes Parts II, IV, and V of the form using soil survey data and returns the form to MoDOT to complete the remaining sections for determining the total score.

If the NRCS representative finds the project site does not contains prime, unique, statewide or local important farmland, the environmental specialist indicates this in the RES response to the district and no further action is required. If the NRCS representative finds that the project site contains prime and unique farmland, or farmland of statewide or local importance, then the environmental specialist completes Part VI, adding its point total to that of Park IV to achieve a cumulative point total for Part VII. If the cumulative point total does not exceed the 160-point threshold established by NRCS for the protection of farmland, it is noted in the RES response to the district and no further action is required.

Although many projects fall under the 160-point threshold, approximately five to 10 percent of projects result in ratings that exceed 160 points. In these cases, at least two alternative sites must be identified and considered for a project. If a suitable alternative site is found for a project and does not impact or has a reduced impact on prime, unique or statewide or local important farmland, the site must be seriously considered for the project. If alternative sites are determined unsuitable for the project, the environmental specialist, with assistance from the district, as needed, must identify why the sites are economically infeasible and/or logistically unreasonable. Once a site is chosen, the environmental specialist records the recommended site or alternative site at the bottom of Part VII with justification for the selection.

127.11.2 Project Development Milestones

127.11.2.1 Location/Conceptual Plans Stage

Once the RES is submitted by the district at the Location/Conceptual Plans Stage, the environmental specialist will begin the review to determine if there will be impacts to/conversion of farmland. If new right of way and/or permanent easement acreages are available, the environmental specialist prepares the appropriate farmland impact rating form (detailed in EPG 127.11.1.4 Process) for the project.

127.11.2.2 Preliminary Plans Stage

If impacts to/conversion of farmland has not yet been evaluated at the time the district submits the RES for preliminary plans and new right of way and/or permanent easement acreages are available, the environmental specialist will prepare the appropriate farmland impact rating form (detailed in EPG 127.11.1.4 Process) for the project. The environmental specialist will provide the district with any new project related findings via the RES response and will discuss appropriate actions with the project manager if necessary.

127.11.2.3 Right of Way Plans Stage

If impacts to/conversion of farmland has not yet been evaluated at the time the district submits the RES for right of way plans and new right of way and/or permanent easement acreages are available, the environmental specialist will prepare the appropriate farmland impact rating form (detailed in EPG 127.11.1.4 Process) for the project. The environmental specialist will provide the district with any new project related findings via the RES response and will discuss appropriate actions with the project manager if necessary.

127.11.2.4 Final Design Plans Stage

If impacts to/conversion of farmland has not yet been evaluated at the time the district submits the RES for the final design plans stage and new right of way and/or permanent easement acreages are available, the environmental specialist will prepare the appropriate farmland impact rating form (detailed in EPG 127.11.1.4 Process) for the project. The environmental specialist will provide the district with any new project related findings via the RES response and will discuss appropriate actions with the project manager if necessary.

127.11.2.5 Letting

Letting cannot occur until the farmland impact evaluation is completed, if one was determined to be required. At this stage, if impacts to/conversion of farmland has not yet been evaluated, the environmental specialist will prepare the appropriate farmland impact rating form (detailed in EPG 127.11.1.4 Process) for the project. Once the results of the farmland impact ratings are known, the environmental specialist will communicate them to the district.

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