Farmers flock to wetlands program, says USDA

The USDA says in the third year of its Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP), interest among farmers and landowners has grown significantly. Ann Mills, Deputy Undersecretary for Natural Resources at the USDA, tells Brownfield they were ready to fund $25-Million in projects when they put out requests for proposals earlier this year.

“We got just almost twice as much demand for this project than we’d anticipated. So, we look around, got a little more money and we are able to invest $32 Million,” says Mills.

The focus of these dollars is in the Mississippi River Basin – which has been flooded many times in the past several years.

Mills tells Brownfield Ag News, “What we have found is, and what, certainly, farmers are finding is that year after year many of their acres are getting flooded. So, they are losing their crop, they are losing fertilizer inputs and losing money.”

Mills says the program allows farmers to make some money and provide greater flood protection while increasing habitat for migratory birds and improving water quality.

“The scope of this project and the benefits are going to be such that it’s really going to be looked at, frankly, across the country and probably around the world just because of its importance,” Mills says.

More than seven-thousand acres between the Mississippi River and levees is enrolled this year with the potential for 30-thousand acres to eventually be protected. Community involvement is a big part of the program. There are wetlands projects funded in Iowa, Missouri and five other states.

AUDIO: Ann Mills (12:00 mp3)

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