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Farm groups to NRCS: Here's how to fix conflict of interest

Farm groups to NRCS: Here's how to fix conflict of interest

NRCS should get staffing help from Soil and Water Conservation Districts, not Pheasants Forever or Ducks Unlimited.

North Dakota commodity and farm groups say the National Resources Conservation Service should enter into contribution agreements with Soil and Water Conservation Districts, not Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever,

Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever have been providing staff members to NRCS in South Dakota and North Dakota to do conservation work. The wildlife groups continue to pay their employees while they work for NRCS.

NRCS says the personnel are not involved in wetland determinations, but are important to be able to deliver technical conservation service to farmers and ranchers.

Ducks take off from a wetland. Should technicians who get paid by Ducks Unlimited work for NRCS? Farm groups say no and offer an alternative.

"While the goal of putting 'boots on the ground' to deliver conservation programs to willing farmers and ranchers is important, it is essential that those 'boots on the ground' provide unbiased information to constituents," some of the farm groups stated in one of their letters to NRCS Chief Jason Weller. "We think the present contribution agreement system does not accomplish that mission."

North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven had earlier proposed that the contribution agreements be put up for bids and that agricultural groups be allowed to put their people on staff at NRCS, too.

But the the farm groups signing these letters say the NRCS contribution agreements should be made only with Soil and Water Conservation Districts.  The districts could accept additional funding from groups like Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever, but not staff.

"This proposal gives all sides a 'timeout' with the hope they may come back together in the future with restored trust and willingness to work together," says North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer in a statement. "It is in the best interest of all parties to find a solution and I believe the principles outlined in this concept provide the best chance for a successful outcome."

Groups signing one of the letters included AmeriFlax, North Dakota Farmers Union, North Dakota Grain Growers Association, North Dakota Soybean Growers Association, Northern Canola Growers Association, Landowners Association of North Dakota, U.S. Durum Growers, North Dakota Corn Growers Association, North Dakota Farm Bureau and the North Dakota Corn Growers Association.

TAGS: Soybeans
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