Area Farm Service Agency director Larry Lago and Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationist Mark Schutt met with the Emmet County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
Their aim was to clarify the impact of county drainage practices on eligibility for USDA program benefits through wetland regulations.
"We have a common customer," Lago said of ag producers. While producers not in farm programs don't have to worry about denial of benefits, if producers are in the farm program they have to adhere to the sodbuster law - which he said could be impacted by a third party such as a drainage district.
Lago said producers have to be concerned about preserving their contract under the farm program. If a proposed drainage project is to take place between May 15 and Aug. 1, Lago said producers need to see if the their agreement is impacted. Outside that time, he said each situation is examined on a case-by-case basis. He said new tiling can't be installed between May 15 and Aug. 1; however, blowouts can be repaired.
Schutt said NRCS policies align with those of the Army Corps of Engineers and that landowners need a wetland determination before they do drainage maintenance.
If landowners are doing an improvement, Schutt said it would be nice if he knew ahead of time and what subdistricts may or may not benefit. He said a wetland determination may be made by a request initiated by the FSA or through whistleblower complaint.
Schutt said if land has no crop history, he'll have to look at it. If it's found to be a nonwetland or converted earlier, producers will get the go-ahead to farm it.
Board chair Alan Madden thanked Lago and Schutt, saying when producers come to the supervisors they're looking for all the answers regarding land use.
Supervisor Ron Smith offered concern about the drainage problem along Highway 4 south of Estherville.
Schutt said he would work on the situation.