Ag Policy Blog

Dakota Senators Seek to Change NRCS Wetlands Oversight

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
Connect with Chris:
A wetlands battle in South Dakota over a .8-acre tract led one farmer to appeal his wetland determination to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota introduced a bill on Monday to restrict how USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service makes wetland rulings. The bill also would prevent NRCS from signing up land for permanent conservation easements. (Photo courtesy of Pacific Legal Foundation)

Making the case that wetland determinations have led to "bureaucratic overreach," Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., on Monday introduced a bill to change how the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) handles wetland compliance.

The bill, which also is backed by both of North Dakota's senators, also would prohibit NRCS from entering into permanent easements with landowners, only allowing term agreements for conservation easements.

"Permanent easement agreements mean decisions made by previous generations could impact future generations," said Doug Sombke, president of the South Dakota Farmers Union, backing the bill. "Each generation needs to be able to make decisions that make sense for their farm or ranch. I don't expect my sons to manage the land exactly how I did or the same way my dad or grandpa did. This Act supports landowners' rights."

Rounds said South Dakota producers "are facing arbitrary, punitive penalties by the NRCS." He added that NRCS is making unfounded wetland determinations that come with large fines and landowners have little or no recourse.

"The NRCS was created to work with farmers and ranchers to help them improve, protect and conserve their land and natural resources," Rounds said. "Over time, it has veered far from that core mission, morphing into an overreaching, overbearing agency that makes heavy-handed decisions about South Dakota producers' land using questionable methods and rationale. Landowners in South Dakota and across the country increasingly battle the NRCS on wetland determinations. Farmers and ranchers already have to battle the wind, rain, snow and sun; they shouldn't have to battle the government, too."

Rounds' bill would make several changes to ways NRCS handles wetland compliance and the appeals process for landowners. Along with the South Dakota Farmers Union, the bill also is backed by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

--Chris Clayton

Thune, Other GOP Senators Introduce Bill to End Estate Tax

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., last week led 40 of his Republican colleagues in reintroducing a bill to permanently repeal the federal estate tax, which is also known as the death tax. The bill was co-sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., the ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.

"Agriculture is the backbone of South Dakota's economy," Thune said. "For years I have fought to protect farm and ranch families from the onerous and unfair death tax."

"Family-owned farms and ranches often bear the brunt of this tax, which makes it difficult and costly to pass these businesses down to future generations," Thune said. "I will continue to do everything in my power to remove these roadblocks for family businesses and repeal the death tax once and for all."

"The death tax penalizes families during some of the most difficult times in their lives and brings particular hardship to our agriculture producers," said Hoeven.

"We need a new generation of young farmers, and they should not be put in the position where they may have to sell land or possibly leave agriculture altogether when a loved one passes away. That's why we continue to advance a permanent repeal of this unnecessary and burdensome tax."

--Jerry Hagstrom

Kaptur, Evans Reintroduce Senior Farmers Market Bill

Reps. Marcy Kaptur D-Ohio, and Dwight Evans, D-Pa., last week reintroduced the Farmers Market & Food Bank Local Revitalization Act of 2023 (H.R. 2378), which would increase funding for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

The bill also includes a new infrastructure funding program and would create a new Agriculture Department pilot program for food banks to procure produce from local growers.

Hannah Quigley, a policy specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said, "NSAC applauds the introduction of the Farmers Market & Food Bank Local Revitalization Act of 2023, which increases access to healthy local food for seniors and families with children while creating new market opportunities for local farmers."

"Investments like those in this bill are essential to connect the dots between local producers and local customers and can generate social and economic benefits for farmers and consumers from rural and urban communities alike."

--Jerry Hagstrom

Chris Clayton can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport


To comment, please Log In or Join our Community .