I talked to Mary Podoll, the new Natural Resources Conservation Service state conservationist in North Dakota, the other day and was surprised and pleased by what she told me.
Podoll said she wants NRCS to improve its farm "customer service."
When a producer submits a request to install drain tile or to maintain a ditch on a farm, Podoll says she'd like NRCS to be able get its wetland determination done more quickly, perhaps in just a few months.
She also said she'd like NRCS to be less territorial, or protective, of individual wetlands on a farm. She'd like the agency to provide more information about the opportunity to move, or mitigate wetlands, to another part of the farm.
That's something I've heard many producers say they wish they could do on their farm. They don't want to eliminate all farm wetlands, they'd just like to be able to drain nuisance wetlands – small spots in the middle of a field, for example, that keep them from planting the whole field on time. They'd be more than willing to store the water in a new wetland that would be good for wildlife and their farm.
Podoll seems to agree. She told me NRCS needs to be more open to what farmers need to do to be economically sustainable.
It will be interesting to see what Podoll can do.