16 U.S.C. § 3844 - Administrative requirements for conservation programs

Cite as16 U.S.C. § 3844

(a) Incentives for certain farmers and ranchers and Indian tribes

(1) Incentives authorized

In carrying out any conservation program administered by the Secretary, the Secretary may provide to a person or entity specified in paragraph (2) incentives to participate in the conservation program-

(A) to foster new farming and ranching opportunities; and

(B) to enhance long-term environmental goals.

(2) Covered persons

Incentives authorized by paragraph (1) may be provided to the following:

(A) Beginning farmers or ranchers.

(B) Socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers.

(C) Limited resource farmers or ranchers.

(D) Indian tribes.

(E) Veteran farmers or ranchers (as defined in section 2279(e) 1 of title 7).

(b) Privacy of personal information relating to natural resources conservation programs

(1) Information received for technical and financial assistance

(A) In general

In accordance with section 552(b)(3) of title 5, except as provided in subparagraph (C) and paragraph (2), information described in subparagraph (B)-

(i) shall not be considered to be public information; and

(ii) shall not be released to any person or Federal, State, local agency or Indian tribe (as defined by the Secretary) outside the Department of Agriculture.

(B) Information

The information referred to in subparagraph (A) is information-

(i) provided to the Secretary or a contractor of the Secretary (including information provided under subchapter IV) for the purpose of providing technical or financial assistance to an owner, operator, or producer with respect to any natural resources conservation program administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service or the Farm Service Agency; and

(ii) that is proprietary (within the meaning of section 552(b)(4) of title 5) to the agricultural operation or land that is a part of an agricultural operation of the owner, operator, or producer.

(C) Exception

Nothing in this section affects the availability of payment information (including payment amounts and the names and addresses of recipients of payments) under section 552 of title 5.

(2) Exceptions

(A) Release and disclosure for enforcement

The Secretary may release or disclose to the Attorney General information covered by paragraph (1) to the extent necessary to enforce the natural resources conservation programs referred to in paragraph (1)(B)(i).

(B) Disclosure to cooperating persons and agencies

(i) In general

The Secretary may release or disclose information covered by paragraph (1) to a person or Federal, State, local, or tribal agency working in cooperation with the Secretary in providing technical and financial assistance described in paragraph (1)(B)(i) or collecting information from data gathering sites.

(ii) Use of information

The person or Federal, State, local, or tribal agency that receives information described in clause (i) may release the information only for the purpose of assisting the Secretary-

(I) in providing the requested technical or financial assistance; or

(II) in collecting information from data gathering sites.

(C) Statistical and aggregate information

Information covered by paragraph (1) may be disclosed to the public if the information has been transformed into a statistical or aggregate form without naming any-

(i) individual owner, operator, or producer; or

(ii) specific data gathering site.

(D) Consent of owner, operator, or producer

(i) In general

An owner, operator, or producer may consent to the disclosure of information described in paragraph (1).

(ii) Condition of other programs

The participation of the owner, operator, or producer in, and the receipt of any benefit by the owner, operator, or producer under, this chapter or any other program administered by the Secretary may not be conditioned on the owner, operator, or producer providing consent under this paragraph.

(3) Violations; penalties

Section 2276(c) of title 7 shall apply with respect to the release of information collected in any manner or for any purpose prohibited by this subsection.

(4) Data collection, disclosure, and review

Nothing in this subsection-

(A) affects any procedure for data collection or disclosure through the National Resources Inventory; or

(B) limits the authority of Congress or the Government Accountability Office to review information collected or disclosed under this subsection.

(c) Plans

The Secretary shall, to the extent practicable, avoid duplication in-

(1) the conservation plans required for-

(A) highly erodible land conservation under subchapter II; and

(B) the conservation reserve program established under subpart B of part I of subchapter IV;

(2) the agricultural conservation easement program established under subchapter VII; and

(3) the environmental quality incentives program established under subpart A of part IV of subchapter IV.

(d) Tenant protection

Except for a person who is a tenant on land that is subject to a conservation reserve contract that has been extended by the Secretary, the Secretary shall provide adequate safeguards to protect the interests of tenants and sharecroppers, including provision for sharing, on a fair and equitable basis, in payments under the programs established under subchapters II through IV, VII, and VIII.

(e) Provision of technical assistance by other sources

In the preparation and application of a conservation compliance plan under subchapter II or similar plan required as a condition for assistance from the Department of Agriculture, the Secretary shall permit persons to secure technical assistance from approved sources, as determined by the Secretary, other than the Natural Resources Conservation Service. If the Secretary rejects a technical determination made by such a source, the basis of the Secretary's determination must be supported by documented evidence.

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