Senator John Hoeven today met with Dave White, Chief of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to call for consistent and sensible rules governing compliance with wetland conservation requirements. Hoeven also invited Chief White to come to North Dakota this spring to meet with area producers and find workable policies for determining wetlands designations.
Since the 1985 Farm Bill, producers need certifications from the NRCS in order to make certain improvements to their land that could affect wetlands. Recently the NRCS has begun the process of creating a new regional policy to ensure consistent implementation of existing requirements, and White said the agency expects to issue new guidance in the coming weeks.
"There are good conservation programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to name two, and I think it's critical that, like these programs, conservation policies work with farmers, not against them," Hoeven said.
Producers have shared concerns with Senator Hoeven that implementation of wetlands compliance laws have been unclear and inconsistent. They are concerned that the rules are being inconsistently applied from state to state and that heavy precipitation in recent years in much of North Dakota is resulting in wetlands being misdesignated.
Hoeven pressed White to explain the agency's policy on wetland determinations and emphasized that conservation programs have to be workable for North Dakota farmers and ranchers. The Senator said North Dakota farmers are telling him that local NRCS officials are coming out to their farms and drawing new maps of their fields that seem to indicate a wetland area exists where none does.
"Producers want to be able to improve their land in accordance with good stewardship practices, but that means the local and Washington, D.C., NRCS staffs need to work to provide a consistent, timely and reasonable certification process," Hoeven said. "They need to work with our farmers to maintain productive farmland while responsibly removing excess water."
White indicated that the NRCS is working on guidance for wetlands determinations that he feels will be more consistent and workable. The Chief also said he is willing to come to North Dakota in the next few weeks to get input from area producers and to review these policies.