[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 47 (Thursday, March 12, 2009)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 10673-10674]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-5083]

Rules and Regulations
                                                Federal Register

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Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 47 / Thursday, March 12, 2009 / Rules 
and Regulations

[[Page 10673]]


Natural Resources Conservation Service

7 CFR Part 636

RIN 0578-AA49

Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program Correction

AGENCY: Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States 
Department of Agriculture.

ACTION: Interim final rule; correction and extension of comment period.


SUMMARY: The Natural Resources Conservation Service published in the 
Federal Register of January 16, 2009, an interim final rule with 
request for comment amending the program regulations for the Wildlife 
Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) to incorporate programmatic changes 
authorized by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 
Act). The language in the interim final rule regarding the application 
of the payment limitation to joint operations was incorrect and is 
inconsistent with payment attributions specified in the regulation 
which governs payment limitations and eligibility determinations for 
CCC-funded programs. This document corrects that language. NRCS is also 
using the opportunity presented by this rulemaking to extend the 
comment period by an additional 30 days and ask for public input on key 
programmatic implementation questions.

DATES: This correction is effective on March 12, 2009. The comment 
period for the WHIP Interim Final Rule published on January 16, 2009, 
is hereby extended and comments must be received on or before April 17, 
2009. Additionally, NRCS has extended the public comment period for the 
Environmental Analysis (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact 
(FONSI) until April 17, 2009. A copy of the EA and FONSI may be 
obtained, and comments submitted, as provided for in the January 16, 
2009, WHIP interim final rule.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gregory Johnson, Director, Financial 
Assistance Programs Division, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural 
Resources Conservation Service, Room 5237, P.O. Box 2890, Washington, 
DC 20013-2890; Phone: (202) 720-1845; Fax: (202) 720-4265.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The NRCS published an interim final rule in 
the Federal Register of January 16, 2009 (74 FR 2786), amending the 
program regulations for WHIP found at 7 CFR part 636. The language in 
the interim final rule regarding the application of the payment 
limitation to joint operations was incorrect. The WHIP interim final 
rule inadvertently applied the $50,000 annual payment limitation to 
joint operations by applying the payment limitation with the term 
``participants,'' which is defined to include ``joint operations.'' A 
joint operation is composed of members who may be either persons or 
legal entities. As specified under 7 CFR part 1400, payment limitations 
are determined on a pro-rata basis in accordance with the ``interest 
held by the person or legal entity in any other legal entity or joint 
operation.'' Based on how joint operations are characterized in part 
1400.106, the $50,000 annual payment limit applies to each person or 
legal entity that comprises the joint operation. Within the 7 CFR 636's 
preamble, the discussion on payment limitation should apply solely to 
persons or legal entities. NRCS removes references to payment 
limitations applying to joint operations.

Request for Public Input

    USDA furthers the Nation's ability to increase renewable energy 
production and conservation, mitigate the effects and adapt to climate 
change, and reduce net carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 
through various assistance programs.
    USDA is increasing renewable energy production through facilitating 
the availability, adoption, and use of wind, solar, and biofuel energy 
sources. USDA encourages renewable energy production by funding biofuel 
technology transfer under Conservation Innovation Grants and through 
facilitating wind and solar power generation facilities for on-farm use 
on conservation lands under the Conservation Reserve Program and the 
Grassland Reserve Program.
    Energy conservation is improved through more efficient equipment 
and processes. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) 
fosters energy conservation on farms and ranches by promoting efficient 
water irrigation systems, no-till, and nutrient management and 
promoting renewable energy production by installing solar-generated 
electric fences.
    The effects of climate change can be mitigated through improving 
the adaptability of ecosystems and flexibility of agricultural 
management systems, including reductions in GHG emissions. WHIP 
improves ecosystem adaptability by enhancing wildlife habitat 
biodiversity and the Agricultural Management Assistance program 
promotes flexible management system through integrated pest management.
    Climate change adaptation occurs through the adoption of 
alternative management systems which respond to changes such as 
decreasing precipitation, longer growing seasons, and increasing 
vulnerability to pest damage. USDA conservation programs, such as the 
Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, encourage the adoption of water 
conservation systems and dry land farming.
    Net carbon emissions can be reduced by reducing fossil fuel use or 
increasing the land's carbon storage capacity. USDA conservation 
programs, such as EQIP, assist participants with reducing fossil fuel 
use through no-till and other conservation tillage cropping systems 
which require fewer trips over a field with a tractor. The Wetlands 
Reserve Program and Healthy Forests Reserve Program sequester carbon by 
encouraging agricultural land reforestation. The Conservation 
Stewardship Program encourages conservation tillage activities that 
improve soil carbon storage.
    While much is underway, USDA has adopted a proactive strategy to 
increase its ability to meet these critical national needs. Therefore, 
NRCS is using this rulemaking opportunity to obtain input from the 
public on how WHIP can achieve its program purposes and

[[Page 10674]]

further the Nation's efforts with renewable energy production, energy 
conservation, mitigating the effects of climate change, facilitating 
climate change adaptation, or reducing net carbon emissions. For 
further information on these subjects you may wish to look at the 
following Web site: http://www.koshland-science-museum.org/exhibitgcc/.

For the reasons stated in the preamble, the NRCS amends part 636 of 
Title 7 of the Code of Federal Regulations as set forth below:


1. The authority citation for part 636 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 3839bb-1.

2. Section 636.4 is amended by revising paragraph (a)(11) to read as 
* * * * *

Sec.  636.4  Program requirements.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (11) With regard to any person or legal entity that utilizes a 
unique identification number as an alternative to a tax identification 
number, the person or legal entity will utilize only that identifier 
for any and all other WHIP cost-share agreements to which the person or 
legal entity is party. Violators will be considered to have provided 
fraudulent representation and be subject to the full penalties of Sec.  
638.13 of this part.
* * * * *

3. Section 636.7 is amended by revising paragraph (f) to read as 

Sec.  636.7  Cost-share payments.

* * * * *
    (f) Payments made or attributed to a person or legal entity, 
directly or indirectly, may not exceed in the aggregate, $50,000 per 
* * * * *

    Signed this 4th day of March 2009, in Washington, DC.
Dave White,
Acting Vice President, Commodity Credit Corporation and Acting Chief, 
Natural Resources Conservation Service.
 [FR Doc. E9-5083 Filed 3-11-09; 8:45 am]