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Welcome to the USDA Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Environmental Compliance Requirements website. This website contains information regarding how the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs comply with all applicable environmental and cultural resource review requirements.

FPAC Business Center Environmental Activities Division (ENV) is responsible for FSA and NRCS environmental compliance. ENV provides consistent, reliable, and accurate guidance on all environmental laws and regulations to FPAC agencies. The Risk Management Agency (RMA) is responsible for the administration of the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) program. The FCIC is Categorically Excluded from NEPA analysis (7 CFR 1b.4(b)).

  1. FSA
  2. NRCS


Environmental Compliance Regulation

Federal government agencies are required to comply with all environmental laws and regulations and fulfill all environmental requirements.

The National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) is a law that makes Federal agencies accountable to the public for the environmental impacts of their actions. The primary driver for triggering a NEPA analysis is the undertaking, by the Federal government, of a major Federal action. A “major Federal action” is defined in NEPA as an agency action that “significantly affect[s] the quality of the human environment.” Major Federal actions include actions with effects that may be significant, and which are potentially subject to Federal control and responsibility (40 CFR 1508.1(q)). 

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is within the Executive Office of the President and is responsible for implementing NEPA government wide. The CEQ states that actions are Federal in nature if a Federal agency “partly financed, assisted, conducted, regulated, or approved” an action. The CEQ has written regulations that establish the procedures Federal agencies must follow to meet NEPA requirements. These regulations require Federal agencies to follow a systematic process when a Federal action is proposed.

  1. Citizens Guide to NEPA
  2. Council on Environmental Quality
  3. 40 CFR 1500-1508 Regulations for implementing NEPA
  4. FSA Regulation 7 CFR 799
  5. NRCS Regulation 7 CFR 650

Environmental Evaluations

a. Categorical Exclusion

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) comply with NEPA by completing an environmental evaluation prior to approving a project or program. The type of review that is completed depends on the potential impact on the environment of the project or program. Projects that will not have a significant impact on the environment can be Categorically Excluded (CatEx) from additional environmental analysis. FPAC agencies complete the following forms to document Categorically Excluded actions:

    1. FSA Form 850
    2. NRCS Form CPA 52

b. Environmental Assessment

If the Federal action is not a Categorically Excluded activity, the agency must prepare either an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). An EA is a concise public document that provides sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether there is a Finding of No Significant Environmental Impact (FONSI) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is needed. The EA describes potential impacts and consequences a proposed action will have on the human and physical environment. The purpose of an EA is to determine the significance of the environmental effects and to look at alternative means to achieve the agency’s objectives.

c. Environmental Impact Statement

If it is determined that the proposed Federal action may significantly affect the environment, an EIS must be prepared. The regulatory requirements for an EIS are more detailed than the requirements for an EA or a CatEx.

Agencies must always consider a “no action alternative” describing the impacts on the environment if the they did not act upon the proposal. A “preferred alternative” should also be identified to describe the agency’s preference. The agency must analyze the full range of direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of alternatives including ecological, aesthetic, historic, cultural, economic, social, or health impacts, whether adverse or beneficial.  Since human beings are part of the environment, economic and social impacts should also be discussed in the EIS.

d. Public Participation

Agencies are required to make efforts to provide meaningful public involvement in their NEPA processes. All draft and final EAs and EIS’ must be made available to the to the public for review and comment at several points in the process. This includes drafts and those that are Programmatic, Supplemental, or proposed to be adopted from another agency.  All draft and final EA’s are available to the public for comments for at least 30 days. Draft EIS’ are available for a 45-day comment period and final EIS’s are available for 30 days.

FSA and NRCS regulations provide that stakeholders and the public are notified through the Federal Register, newspapers, and direct mailings, as appropriate for the proposed project.  

Agencies solicit different levels of involvement when they prepare an EA versus an EIS. For controversial actions or activities with potential environmental impacts, public meetings may be held before or during the development of an EA or EIS. These meetings serve to inform the public of the proposed action and to solicit input that may help in the development of the proposed action and alternatives.   

Protected Resources/Special Environmental Concerns

The following list contains a sample of protected resources that are considered:

Cultural Resources/Historic Preservation

Cultural resource is a broad term that includes all physical evidence of past human activity. This could include a site, object, structure, or landscape. Cultural resources are non-renewable and important to our Nation’s history as they tell the story of our human past and our interaction with the natural environment.

FPAC agencies are actively developing historic preservation (cultural resources) programs that fulfill their responsibilities through compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, February 2013 (PDF, 3.11 MB)

Section 106 requires all Federal agencies, including FPAC, consider the impacts of their planned actions on historic properties. Historic properties are significant cultural resources important to the history of the United States and indigenous people.

Section 106 also requires that Federal agencies consult with other effected parties when examining their project's impacts. FPAC takes historic properties into account prior to approving any application or contract. FSA and NRCS have independent processes on fulfilling their requirements under Section 106.

Information on Agency Specific Section 106




Consultation is an integral part of the Section 106 process that seeks, discusses, and considers the views of consulting parties regarding how to handle project effects on historic properties. Federal agencies are required to consult with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), State Historic Preservation Officers, affected federally recognized Indian Tribes, the public, and any other party or expresses interest in a particular Federal project.  

Final Programmatic NEPA Documents by Agency

NRCS NEPA Documents

FSA NEPA Documents


NRCS Science and Technology Environmental Evaluation Webinar Series

Local Offices

FSA and NRCS administer programs through a network of state and county offices. Each FSA state office has a State Executive Director (SED) and NRCS office has a State Conservationist (STC) who provide oversight and direction in the implementation of environmental review responsibilities at the state and county levels.

For specific questions related to a program and its associated environmental benefits in a state, we encourage you to contact our local FSA or NRCS office.