USDA Announces Funding for Wetland Mitigation Banks and Conservation Stewardship Program

USDA Announces Funding for Wetland Mitigation Banks and Conservation Stewardship Program


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that it is accepting applications for funding through two Farm Bill conservation programs, according to the Wildlife Management Institute. Project proposals for the new wetland mitigation banking program are due by March 28, and proposals for funding of 2016 projects under the Conservation Stewardship Program are also recommended to be submitted before the end of March.

USDA will make $9 million available to states, local governments and qualified third parties to establish or expand wetland mitigation banks for farmers. This new program, established by Congress as part of the 2014 Farm Bill, would allow farmers who drain wetlands to mitigate for their loss either by creating new wetlands on-site or by purchasing credits at wetland development projects off-site. USDA hopes to have credits available at wetland development projects within two years.

"Wetland mitigation banks will give farmers and ranchers more conservation options so they can find the best solution for their land and circumstances," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

In the past, producers have used mitigation banks to stay in compliance with swampbuster provisions of previous farm bills, but developers often had advantages over individual producers in purchasing credits. This program is specifically designed for farmers and ranchers.

The deadline to submit wetland mitigation bank proposals to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is March 28.

USDA also recently announced that it is making $150 million available to agricultural producers through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The agency estimates that the additional funding will result in 10 million acres being added to CSP.

Funding is available to implement over 100 different conservation practices including habitat restoration for wildlife, such as the greater sage grouse, lesser prairie chicken and other species, as well as pollinators, such as the monarch butterfly, through the use of better grazing systems and improved plant management.

Producers can enroll in CSP throughout the year but USDA advises that applications should be submitted by March 31 to be considered for funding in 2016.

View more information. (pmr)

February 16, 2016