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North Dakota Agricultural Mitigation Inc. hopes to give farmers assistance with wetlands banking

Farmers can buy credits from wetlands mitigation banks to compensate for the impact of lost wetlands.

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North Dakota Agricultural Mitigation Inc. was formed to help farmers who want to take part in wetlands mitigation banking.

GRAND FORKS, North Dakota — Six agricultural organizations have joined forces to defray some of the costs associated with wetlands mitigation.

The organization called North Dakota Agricultural Mitigation Inc. is made up of the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association, North Dakota Grain Growers Association, North Dakota Corn Growers Association, U.S. Durum Growers Association, North Dakota Farmers Union and North Dakota Farm Bureau.

North Dakota Agricultural Mitigation Inc. in late August 2021 submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a grant that would be used to fund the legal fees and the engineering of the wetland banks so producers wouldn’t have to bear the full cost, said Drew Courtney, an Oakes, North Dakota, farmer and NDAM vice chair.

Courtney, who is secretary and treasurer of the North Dakota Corn Growers Association, volunteered to represent the NDCGA for NDMA Inc. because he believes the latter organization has potential to benefit farmers who participate in the wetlands mitigation program. Courtney and Matt Retka, a Stantec soil scientist in Fargo, North Dakota, talked about wetland mitigation banking at the Prairie Grains conference in Grand Forks on Dec. 9.

The United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service established the wetlands mitigation banking program, which is a competitive grants program that supports the development and establishment of wetland mitigation banks. The banks made credits available for agricultural producers.

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Producers who participate in the wetlands mitigation banking program restore, create or enhance wetlands to compensate for the unavoidable impacts to wetlands in another location. Banking, though typically used to compensate for the impacts on wetlands from development, also is used for impacts resulting from agriculture, according to NRCS.

Conservation compliance or Swampbuster provisions are designed to remove certain incentives to produce agricultural commodities on converted wetlands. Most USDA programs require that farmers who want to get benefits fill out form AD-1026 , which says they agree not to drain, dredge or fill wetlands so they can produce crops. If avoidance or on-site mitigation is challenging, the Farm Bill allows farmers to mitigate off-site using wetland banking.

Farmers can buy credits from wetlands mitigation banks to compensate for the impact of lost wetlands. When a bank is established the landowner still owns and uses the property, and a conservation easement protects it from “incompatible degrading activities,” NRCS said.

The quantity of the wetland bank credits available for sale are determined by the size and scope of the wetlands restoration, creation or enhancement. The buyer and seller determine the price of the banking credits.

Bank sponsors, which include individuals or entities who develop the wetlands for use in wetland mitigation banking, are responsible for the cost of development and maintenance of the bank. The sponsors can compete for NRCS funding to defray the cost of wetland development and to maintain the wetland bank

Preserving wetlands 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.

North Dakota Agricultural Mitigation Inc. hopes to hear about whether it will be awarded the USDA grant in January 2022, Courtney said.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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