The Farmland Policy Protection Act (FPPA) (7 USC 4201) was enacted in 1981 to address the conversion of farmland to non-agricultural uses for federally funded projects. The purpose of the FPPA is 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.” The program is administered by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) through U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations 7 CFR 658.
When It Is Required
Federal actions that affect “farmland” (defined in 7 CFR 658.2 as prime farmland, unique farmland, or farmland of statewide importance) are subject to FPPA. Farmland soils maps are maintained by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) as part of their soil surveys. Although “prime farmlands” and “locally important farmlands” are identified based on soil types that meet specific criteria, land that has been converted to urban or water storage no longer qualifies as “prime farmland” under the law. Soil surveys and a listing of farmland soil series may be found on the NRCS website. Typically, farmland evaluations are conducted as part of the NEPA process.
If a proposed project will involve the conversion of farmland as defined by law, the adverse effects on the protection of farmland must be taken into account. To determine whether an effect is adverse, a Farmland Conversion Impact Rating Form (Form AD 1006) or a Farmland Conversion Impact Rating Form for Corridor-Type Projects (Form NRCS-CPA-106) may be required to be submitted to the appropriate county NRCS office. A list of the county offices can be found on the Vermont NRCS website. Portions of the form are completed by NRCS, and portions by the project proponent. The form uses a scoring system to determine the relative value of the farmland that is proposed to be affected. Information needed on the form includes land use surrounding the proposed project, recent history of active farming, acreage that will be converted, farm investments that have been made, and other information. Scores under 160 (out of 260) are not given further consideration. Scores over 160 warrant the study of alternatives that would result in conversion of fewer acres. Most VTrans projects have minimal impacts to farmland soils, and the form is not required. There are slightly different criteria that are considered for non-corridor-type projects. NRCS may be contacted for guidance on completing the form.
Regulatory programs with overlapping jurisdiction with the Farmland Policy Protection Act include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:
Act 250: Impacts to farmland must be considered under Criterion 9 of Act 250.
For More Information
Natural Resource Conservation Service
356 Mountain View Drive
Colchester, Vermont 05446
Guidelines for Implementing the Final Rule of the Farmland Protection Policy Act for Highway projects
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets
Important farmland soils lists