Late last week, USDA announced it would provide up t $35 million in funding over the next three years to help landowners "conserve grasslands and wetlands in the Prairie Pothole region," according to a release.
Farmers, ranchers and conservation partners will have access to a range of financial and technical assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The region that includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Montana "provides critical breeding and nesting habitate for more than 60% of the nation's migratory waterfowl," says Robert Bonnie, undersecretary for natural resources and environment, USDA. He adds: "Our goal is to help landowners manage their working lands in a way that's compatible with agricultural production and good stewardship of the soil, water and habitat resources."
The funding comes in two ways.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program which will help producers with expiring Conservation Reserve Program contracts to keep their lands as working grasslands or haylands through implementation of prescribed grazing and other conservation practices.
Ducks Unlimited NRCS partnership for carbon credits which has NRCS working with North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana to create a carbon credit marketing system for landowners who agreed to avoid tilling grasslands; started in 2011 in North Dakota as part of a conservation innovation grant, it is now being expanded. Through this system, landowners can keep their land in grass, continue grazing and haying and generate verified carbon credits that place a conservation easement on their on their land.
NRCS will also provide added tech assistance to complete certified wetland determinations, which producers need to meet conservation compliance requirements that started in 1985.