Hoeven Presses USDA Nominees on Prevented Plant, Grazing, Wetlands Maps

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven pressed U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary nominee Krysta Harden and USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment nominee Robert Bonnie on key issues important to North Dakota farmers and ranchers. The exchange came at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing this week to consider their confirmation for appointments to the USDA.

Prevented Planting

The senator secured a commitment from Harden to continue working with the Risk Management Agency (RMA) and North Dakota producers to clarify the prevented-plant insurance rules, which are critically important this year because of a very wet growing season.

Earlier this month, RMA Administrator Brandon Willis assured Hoeven that 2012 will not automatically be considered an abnormally dry year for the purpose of the 1 in 4 rule, which would disqualify some producers from obtaining prevented plant coverage; however, growers will have to work with their insurers on a case-by-case basis to make the determination. Willis also committed to clarify and simplify the 1 in 4 rule by this fall so that there will be no confusion regarding coverage and eligibility in the 2014 crop year.

In May, Hoeven hosted Willis in Fargo and Bismarck at roundtable meetings held with a broad range of North Dakota agriculture group leaders to provide an update and press for a clarification of the prevented plant rules, the Farm Bill and other agricultural issues important to North Dakota growers. At the senator’s request, Willis has agreed to visit North Dakota again to report on RMA’s progress and plans.

Hoeven also successfully included an amendment in the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill requiring the agency to simplify the provisions to make them clearer to producers and reflective of local conditions. The measure will further help to clarify program rules.

Updated Wetlands Maps

Hoeven also pressed Bonnie to update wetlands maps so that farmers in the Prairie Pothole region know with certainty what the conservation rules are before they plant. Specifically, the senator stressed that producers need to know with certainty if they can rely on maps drafted between 1990 and 1996.

Producers have expressed concerns to 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. Bonnie pledged to make it a focus if he is confirmed.

Grazing Land

Hoeven also pushed for a more collaborative approach in deciding management practices for ranchers on the Little Missouri National Grasslands. He asked for a commitment to implement common-sense regulations and a multiple use policy of public lands that allow for grazing and grazing allotments.

The senator said ranching families in North Dakota have been good stewards of the grassland for decades. They depend on them and want to see them healthy and productive for the next generation.