The National Resources Conservation Service has awarded $875,000 to North Dakota Agricultural Mitigation Inc. to help lower the cost of establishing wetland banks.

The North Dakota organization is made up of six agricultural groups in the state. North Dakota Agricultural Mitigation will use the funding from NRCS to provide financial assistance for farmers who are setting up wetland banks.

The funding that NDAM received is part of $5 million in funding that USDA announced on Wednesday, Dec. 22.

“It’s a good start,” said Drew Courtney, an Oakes, North Dakota farmer, who is NDAM vice chair. “This will unlock the funding to help producers cut the cost of going through mitigation.”

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service established the wetlands mitigation banking program, which is a competitive grants program. The banking program supports the development and establishment of wetland banks that make credits available for agricultural producers.

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“The Wetland Mitigation Banking Program supports critical wetland restoration and protection while also expanding options for farmers and ranchers,” Terry Crosby, NRCS chief, said in a prepared statement. “Wetlands provide valuable ecosystem functions, including wildlife habitat and groundwater recharge. These projects allow us to collaborate with states, local governments and other qualified partners to restore, create and enhance wetland ecosystems.”

Producers who participate in the wetlands mitigation banking program agree to restore, create or enhance wetlands to compensate for the unavoidable loss of wetlands in a different location.

Swampbuster provisions are designed to remove incentives to produce commodities on converted wetlands. Most farmers who want to receive USDA program benefits are required to sign a form that says they won’t drain, dredge or fill wetlands so they can raise crops. If avoidance or on-site mitigation is challenging, they can apply to mitigate off-site using wetland banking.

Producers can buy credits from wetland mitigation banks to compensate for the impact of lost wetlands. The landowner remains the bank’s owner after it is established, and a conservation easement protects the bank from “incompatible or degrading activities,” according to NRCS.

“Our farmers and ranchers know their land and are in the best position to properly protect the quality of the soil and water,” Sen. John Hoeven, ranking member of the Senate agriculture appropriations committee, said in a prepared statement. “That’s why we’ve worked to make this wetland banking program available.”

Restoration of former wetlands provides the best opportunity for success in generating credits. Many times, land is reverted to its original state by altering hydrology, NRCS said.

Preservation of wetlands, meanwhile, typically doesn’t qualify for generation of credits because protection of a wetland doesn’t mitigate the replacement of lost acres. Restoration of former wetlands provides the best opportunity for success in generating credits. Many times, land is reverted to its original state by altering hydrology, NRCS said.

Besides NDAM, other recipients of the latest round of wetlands mitigation funding were $581,000 for Magnolia Land Partners LLC in Illinois; $516,000 to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; $496,000 to Corblu Ecology Group LLC in Georgia; $846,000 to Magnolia Land Partners LLC in Nebraska; $992,000 to Minton Environmental Consultants LLC in Missouri and $575,000 to Wildlife Mississippi.