Senator John Hoeven said he welcomed today's announcement that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will make $7 million in financial assistance available to compensate farmers and landowners for flooded land using short-term conservation leases. The program will be available in three states: North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota. The agency will begin to accept applications on April 20, 2012.
"We worked hard to secure this funding because our state's agricultural producers continue to face enormous challenges from ongoing flooding and rising waters, especially in the Devils Lake Basin," said Hoeven. "The Water Bank Program will provide much needed assistance to our state's producers with flooded farmlands. Formerly the leases were for 30-years, but we worked to secure shorter ten-year agreement under this program, which will provide greater flexibility for farmers in North Dakota to enroll their flooded farmlands in a conservation program, while working ultimately to return these valuable acres to productive use."
As a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven worked to get the funding approved for Fiscal Year 2012. The Water Bank Program allows producers and landowners to enter into ten-year agreements to voluntarily protect wetlands and flooded agricultural lands in return for annual payments. The final bill allotted funding for the program and permitted the Secretary of Agriculture to waive limitations on the share of the funding any single state may receive, increasing the potential use of the program in North Dakota.
The Water Bank Program will focus on flood reduction this fiscal year. Severe flooding of agricultural land has been a problem in North Dakota and the other states, parts of which lie in the prairie pothole region. Eligible land for this year's WBP included flooded agricultural land, flooded hay, pasture or rangeland, and flooded private forestland.
For more information about NRCS activities in North Dakota, please visit www.nd.nrcs.usda.gov.