Profitable land use options exist for wet cropland
MANKATO — Continual and extreme rainfall this spring prevented planting and caused drowned out areas in thousands of acres in Minnesota. Some of these areas of the field are common wet areas and continually drown out. They are along edges of the field, are near waterways or can be large potholes in the center of fields.
Landowners need to make economical and practical decisions regarding the proper land use practice for these areas.
Farm management specialists estimate that for every acre that is drowned out, it takes 10 to 20 acres or more of the average yielding crop to compensate for the expense and loss of potential income.
There are several management options producers may consider to make this land more profitable in the future.
Installing additional tile drainage is an option if the areas are not affected by federal and state wetland laws. However, many of these wet areas generate minimal, if any, crop yield to provide income to the field.
If increased drainage is not an economic, practical or feasible option, landowners should consider conservation programs and practices that can be economical and practical while protecting the soil and water resources.
These wet fields may be eligible for conservation programs offered through various federal USDA and state agencies.
The USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program continuous sign-up offers many programs that pay annual cash rental rates for a 10 or 15-year contract for a variety of eligible practices. They include: Farmable Wetlands Program (FWP), Wetland Restoration and Shallow Water Areas for Wildlife, just to mention a few. Wetland payments are also provided in the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). Contact a Farm Service Agency (FSA) office for more details.
The Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) program is offered through the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). WRE offers payments for wetland establishment and preservation.
Minnesota’s Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) has several opportunities for landowners who are considering restoring wetlands on their property. The first is wetland banking, which involves the restoration of wetlands to generate credits which can then be sold to third parties who need the credits to offset wetland impacts at another location to satisfy state and federal regulatory requirements.
The wetland banking market in Minnesota is one of the most active ones in the country, and there are several different options for interested landowners to consider. Additional information on wetland banking can be obtained by contacting BWSR Wetland Section staff.
The second opportunity is a state and federal partnership wetland program through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (MN CREP). Landowners can obtain additional information on MN CREP by contacting the local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) office.
Restoring wetlands will reduce downstream flood damage, improve surface and groundwater quality and recharge groundwater supplies. Wetlands provide vital habitat for migratory birds and many wildlife species, including threatened and endangered species, plus provide recreational opportunities.
Perennial drown out areas of the field can be developed into productive working lands. Conservation plantings and wetland establishment can be profitable in wet soil conditions and are positive options for landowners.
USDA agencies are taking additional timely steps to help producers during this unusually wet year, including:
Updating the haying and grazing date for producers who have planted cover crops on prevented plant acres;
Offering special sign-ups through EQIP for assistance to plant cover crops; and
Extending the deadline to report prevented plant acres in certain places.
Contact your county FSA, SWCD, or NRCS offices for more information.
The Farm Information Line is also a helpful resource for producers at 1-800-232-9077 or email@example.com.