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NRCS Looks To Clear S.D.'s Wetland Determination Backlog In Three Years

NRCS Looks To Clear S.D.'s Wetland Determination Backlog In Three Years

NRCS chief Jason Weller says three years is his goal and that agency is making good progress to meet it.

The wetland determination backlog in South Dakota should be cleared in three years, according to the chief of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Ducks swim where corn once grew. But is a wetland, or farmland that could be tiled? The backlog of requests to make such determinations now stands at 2,600 in South Dakota.

Jason Weller, the head of the USDA NRCS, said his goal is to have the backlog "wiped out" in three years.  He made the comments in response to Sen. John Thune's questions at a recent Congressional hearing. "Eastern South Dakota is ground zero in the Prairie Pothole Region and farmers in this area of the state, especially northeastern South Dakota, have been challenged by flooding off and on over the past several years," said Thune at the hearing. "Many of these farmers, in order to better manage their land and to ensure they meet conservation compliance provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill, have requested wetlands determinations from NRCS."

Thune also told the NRCS chief that the wetlands backlog is a lingering problem that has created great consternation among producers in that area.

Since July the backlog of wetland determinations in South Dakota decreased by 10% to under 2,600, Jason Weller said.

"We are making good progress," he said.

South Dakota will receive additional funds, almost $1.5 million, to add staff to work on wetland determination. More than 20 full-time staff will be dedicated to wetlands determinations in South Dakota.

Producers awaiting determinations should receive a letter updating them on their status in January. The letter will include an expected timeline for action on their request, Weller said.

"While I welcome Chief Weller's update on the progress that has been made over the past few months, the current status of the wetlands determination backlog is unacceptable, and more must be done to meet the needs of South Dakota producers," Thune said in a statement.

See a video of Thune's and Weller's  comments made at the hearing.

Sen. Thune office provided his comments and the video.

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