Natural Resources Conservation Service
356 Mountain View Drive, Suite 105 Phone: (802) 951-6795
Colchester, VT 05446 Fax: (802) 951-6327
Wetland Fact Sheet – Minimal Effect and Other
Exemptions from Swampbuster
The Swampbuster provision of the 1985 Farm Bill was aimed at reducing the conversion of
wetlands for agricultural purposes. If you drain, fill, level, clear stumps or otherwise alter a
wetland you will lose eligibility for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program benefits.
Minimal Effect Exemption
If you are planning small projects in wetland areas they may qualify for a Minimal Effect
Exemption. These exemptions can often be granted for activities such as draining a wet spot in
the middle of a hayfield or pasture or for “squaring off” the corner off a field. The planned
project must be fairly small in size, usually less than one-third of an acre in size, and have no
significant impact to wetlands.
It is important to request these exemptions from Swampbuster prior to undertaking the project.
Staff from your local NRCS office will review the site and determine if the project will qualify
for a Minimal Effect Exemption. Often projects that qualify for a Minimal Effect exemption will
also qualify for exemptions from other agencies that regulate wetlands.
Other Exemptions to Swampbuster
Roads and Structures – Converted Wetland Non-Agricultural Exemption
Projects in wetlands such as roads and building structures are often exempt from Swampbuster
compliance. To qualify the project must not allow for the production of a crop in the wetland
area that will be converted.
Cutting Trees – Wetland Manipulated but not Capable of Producing a Crop
Certain activities in wetlands are exempt from Swampbuster compliance if they do not allow a
crop to be grown in the manipulated area. Some examples of this include cutting trees when the
stumps are left in place and installing a drainage ditch through a wooded area.
Wetlands Converted by Someone Else – Third Party Exemption
In some situations a person can maintain program eligibility if the wetland was converted by
another individual without the owners knowledge or consent.
These exemptions do not apply to regulatory programs administered by the Army
Corps of Engineers or the State of Vermont.
Please contact your local NRCS office for further information and to request an exemption prior
to starting any projects in wetlands. You can also visit us on the web at: www.vt.nrcs.usda.gov.