Wetland Restoration Easement Program to offer attractive paymentsWORTHINGTON — The old saying that “the pen is mightier than the sword” just might have some new meaning in this modern day when it comes to the task of conservation.
By: Scott Rall, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — The old saying that “the pen is mightier than the sword” just might have some new meaning in this modern day when it comes to the task of conservation.
As you might know, I am very involved with the local chapter of Pheasants Forever. This habitat organization has acquired over 20 parcels of land totaling more than 1,600 acres in Nobles County. This a great feat for which I take great pride in having helped the other members of the committee achieve.
As big as a success as this is, it is still very small when you compare it to the number of acres of habitat that is created when there is a new farm program announced. The CRP program is the most well known and has resulted in over 30 million acres of marginal farmland being idled for the benefit of the soil, water and wildlife.
That is why conservation organizations work closely with the various government agencies to help educate those members of the community that might take advantage of these programs.
The one big problem in the past is that the payment rates for these programs have been much lower than the rates that could be attained from conventional farming practices, even on marginal acres. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that land rent that is two to three times larger than conservation practice payments will not create many conservation acres.
This is about to change with the introduction of the Wetland Restoration Easement Program Signup, which ends July 18th.
This program is a combination of Federal USDA dollars combined with the very successful State of Minnesota “Reinvest in Minnesota” dollars. It is the combination of these two program dollars that has finally made the payment rates attractive enough to raise the eyebrows of prospective landowners.
The wetland restoration program is designed to allow farmers that have been farming very wet areas with little or limited success a way to make those acres productive, and be compensated at the same time without having to try row cropping. The areas that would qualify are easy to identify. If they are acres that have to be replanted often or are located in, or around surface intakes for tile they would be good candidates.
Just as an example, if there was a wetland restoration project in Ransom Township in Nobles County, the land owner could likely receive a one-time payment of more than $4,400 per acre of for each acre that is permanently taken out of crop production.
One common misconception that many people have is that if you enroll in one of these programs, the property becomes open to the public. This is just not true. The landowner still maintains complete control of the property and who has access to it. The landowner remains responsible for the taxes and the upkeep, but the payment rate on frequently flooded crop ground still looks very attractive.
The program requires that the interested party submit a proposal, and the project is then scored based on a formula that includes size, cropland/non-cropland ratio and other factors. The projects that score high enough will get funded as long as the funds that have been committed hold out.
The Feds have 35 million in their bank account for the first round of sign ups that end July 18. That does not leave much time to get things started. The way to proceed if you think that the wetland restoration program might be for you is to stop out to the SWCD office on North McMillan Street in Worthington and talk to Steve Woltjer in the NRCS office. You can call him at 507-376-9150 and then hit No. 3 when prompted to do so. You can also e-mail him at Steven.Woltjer@MN.USDA.GOV to ask a question or set up a face to face.
The pen can enroll thousands of acres of habitat is a single stroke, and any serious conservationist will be informed and promote those programs.
There is one other program that I mentioned a few weeks back called the CRP Back 40 program. This is an additional CRP sign up that had 26,000 acres available at the outset and at the present time, more than half of those acres have been enrolled. There is still time to check this one out as well.
The hardest balance when it comes to conservation is the balance between making a living and preserving our soil and water resources. These programs go a long way to making that balance easier to achieve by substantially increasing the incentives to participate. I hope that these new changes will achieve the desired results to the betterment of all involved.