Legislators, grower leaders and officials from the Natural Resources Conservation Service made a swing through eastern North Dakota this week to learn more about flood mitigation efforts that are underway and to discuss further efforts for the future.
The North Dakota Grain Growers Association invited NRCS Chief Dave White to the state to discuss the ability of the NRCS to partner with agricultural interests for orderly water management. NDGGA President Terry Weckerly, a producer that farms near Hurdsfield, North Dakota, says his group hoped to influence and educate the Chief on what can be done to best serve the farming community
Producers, ranchers and legislators got a first-hand look at a tiling project that NDGGA Vice President Brad Thykeson has underway on his farm near Portland, North Dakota. Weckerly says some special interest groups look at tiling as a form of drainage, and some conservationists are concerned about expanded tiling efforts because North Dakota is in the heart of the Prairie Pothole Region.
"We are just trying to use technology that our sister states around us have used for years, we're not asking for anything special," Weckerly said. "When you talk tiling, it's not drainage, it's water management. It's like squeezing your sponge out when washing your car. The soil is like that and if you never wring that sponge out and you put more water on it you know what happens. In doing that with the tiling we can control those flows and bring those back into play in off-peak times."
Chief White was hoping to directly see the issues that growers are facing and how the NRCS may be able to help.
"We've had a series of incredibly wet years and producers are trying to manage that water and still stay on the clean, bright side of the compliance rules that are in the Farm Bill," White said. "So part of that is for my knowledge, we have some NRCS people along who are very familiar with this, so it's more for my education on what can I do, what can we bring to bear to help these producers manage all this excess water."
After the stop near Portland, Chief White took a look at flood mitigation efforts underway in the Devils Lake area. Soil nutrition and land conservation were also issues discussed during the tour.