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Published February 23, 2011, 04:47 PM

Dalrymple Asks USDA to Assist Farmers Who Have Lost Land to Devils Lake

Gov. calls for 'unprecedented support'
Governor Jack Dalrymple on Wednesday called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to modify its Wetlands Reserve Program to better serve landowners who continue to lose ground and earnings to the rising Devils Lake.

BISMARCK, ND – Governor Jack Dalrymple on Wednesday called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to modify its Wetlands Reserve Program to better serve landowners who continue to lose ground and earnings to the rising Devils Lake.

“The challenges we face in the Devils Lake Basin require unprecedented support from many agencies and organizations, including the USDA,” Dalrymple said in a statement issued Wednesday. “With a few modifications to the Wetlands Reserve Program, we can help landowners recoup some lost revenue and yet give them the flexibility they need to someday return these lands to agricultural production.”

The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), adopted as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, provides technical and financial support to landowners who maintain wetlands on qualified acreage. The voluntary program gives landowners an opportunity to earn income by establishing long-term conservation and wildlife practices.

Dalrymple asked Dave White, chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), to continue WRP, extend the program’s enrollment period for landowners in the Devils Lake Basin and to offer the landowners shorter-term WRP easement contracts.

The WRP is limited to lands that are submerged in less than 6.5 feet of water. Dalrymple has asked NRCS officials to retain landowners’ eligibility in the Devils Lake Basin through the life of the Farm Bill based on the lake’s current level. Dalrymple also has asked NRCS officials to shorten the easement agreements for Devils Lake Basin landowners to 15 years. Currently, landowners are required to enter into permanent or 30-year easement contracts.

Retaining landowner’s program eligibility and offering shorter contracts would enable landowners to earn income while their lands are flooded and to more quickly return their property to agriculture production or other development after Devils Lake recedes, Dalrymple said.

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