Hoeven Brings NRCS Chief to ND to Find Fair, Workable Guidelines for Designating Wetlands on Farms and Ranches

WEST FARGO, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today met with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Dave White and leaders of North Dakota’s agriculture and commodity groups to discuss fair and workable guidelines for designating wetlands on North Dakota farms and ranches. Hoeven invited White to North Dakota to receive input from the state’s agriculture leaders on a regional policy for wetlands determinations.

Producers have shared concerns with Senator Hoeven that implementation of wetlands compliance laws have been unclear and inconsistent. Producers are concerned that the rules are being applied differently from state to state and that heavy precipitation during recent years throughout much of the state is resulting in wetlands being incorrectly designated.

The group discussed potential solutions to address these concerns and to provide consistent and fair guidelines for determining wetlands. These proposals include:

  • Using a 30-year history of wetland mapping as a baseline for establishing normal conditions on farmlands. This baseline could use precipitation data from 1970-2000, spanning the 15 years before and after the 1985 conservation compliance requirements were established, with high and low precipitation years discarded to represent a reasonable average.
  • Allowing the use of historic maps from 1985 to the mid-1990’s to get a more realistic portrait of North Dakota wetlands.

“We’re encouraged that the NRCS is working toward a more consistent and sensible set of rules for wetland designations, and I appreciate Chief White meeting with representatives from our state’s agriculture and commodity groups today,” Hoeven said. “Our producers need reasonable designations that reflect long-term conditions on their farms and ranches. They want to be able to improve their land with good stewardship practices, but they also need reasonable designations that allow them to maintain productive farmland when appropriate.”

Hoeven encouraged Chief White to incorporate feedback from today’s meeting as the agency continues working on a regional policy, which must be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Secretary of Agriculture before being issued.

Hoeven also provided the state’s agriculture leaders with an update on the Senate Agriculture Committee’s 2012 Farm Bill. The legislation, which was approved by the committee last Thursday, finds savings of $23 billion while providing critical risk management tools for producers and investing in farmers’ futures with strong energy and research titles.