BISMARCK – Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring have asked federal officials to make an exception in prevented planting policy for producers in the Devils Lake basin whose farms have shrunk or disappeared due to the lake's rising waters.

“It is undeniable that the Devils Lake waters, temporarily sitting on the farmer's land, are preventing the planting of crops,” said Dalrymple and Goehring in a letter to William Murphy, administrator of USDA's Risk Management agency. “However, they are currently not eligible for prevented planting payments because of current regulations that do not allow a claim on any farm land inundated for more than two years in a row or on farm land for which the initial cause of loss occurred in a prior year.”

Dalrymple and Goehring pressed RMA to issue a manager's bulletin modifying prevented planting policies for producers in closed lake basins, such as Devils Lake, by providing prevented planting eligibility to all farmland that was tillable at the 1999 lake elevation of 1,446 feet. They said the state is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to bring this farmland back into production.

Dalrymple and Goehring said the only assistance program now available to farmers in the region, the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP), is not sufficient for compensating farmers for loss of land.

“The WRP requires that the water be less than 6.5 feet deep and carries a 30-year easement, leaving land out of production for a lifetime,” they said. “The WRP program is not the solution for many farmers in the Devils Lake region because they intend and expect to bring their land back into production.”

Dalrymple and Goehring said help is needed not only for the affected producers but for the economy of the entire region.

“The rising waters of Devils Lake have devastated the farmers in that region. Their ability to generate income from their farmland has been greatly diminished, consequently causing an overall decline in the region's economy,” they told Murphy. “Some farmers have lost 95 percent of their farm and have virtually no farm income, while still obligated to pay real estate taxes and make mortgage payments on that inundated land. Many of these farms will not survive until the water recedes.”