Farm Bureau to develop ag wetland mitigation bank for South Dakota

Farm Forum

Huron – South Dakota Farm Bureau has been awarded a $75,000 Conservation Innovation Grant from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a first-ever agricultural wetland mitigation banking system for South Dakota.

“There has been a clear need for some type of wetland mitigation bank for many years, but there’s never before been a system for getting it done. Farm Bureau is about to change that,” said Wayne Smith, SDFB Executive Director and farmer from Egan, S.D.

Wetland mitigation means moving a wetland from a crop field to a wetland that has been created, restored, and/or enhanced. This can be done on an acre-for-acre basis, or a function-and-value for function-and-value basis. Through the grant, Farm Bureau will establish the framework for a statewide wetland mitigation bank, including the eligibility rules, crediting rates, verification system, service areas, registries, and trading methods.

Without a mitigation bank, South Dakota has only seen five mitigations in the last seven years. This new system will be a win-win: area in degraded wetlands will be replaced with area in better-functioning wetlands, plus farmers will have a user-friendly system for getting it done.

Other key points:

• Farm Bureau will negotiate with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to set up the criteria

• Farmers will deal with the mitigation bank itself, not the NRCS

• Farmers will have a known set of criteria for determining whether to mitigate or not

Mitigation will become vital to producer members as we move forward with the new farm bill, so producers can remain “in compliance” now that conservation compliance has been tied to the farm program. SDFB began the project on October 1 and expects completion by August 31, 2015.