Goehring opens State Waterbank acres to haying & grazing

BISMARCK – Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring has ordered that haying and grazing be immediately allowed on land contracted to the State Waterbank Program due to drought conditions.

“The need for hay and pasture is increasingly acute,” Goehring said. “Opening Waterbank land for 2012 makes more than 2,400 additional acres available to help feed livestock.”

Goehring said the haying and grazing can now be conducted by the landowners without a reduction to their lease payment. Leaseholders also have the option of allowing others to hay or graze the Waterbank acres.

“We are notifying State Waterbank Contract participants that their waterbank acres are eligible for haying and grazing upon return of the required form,” Goehring said. “I hope that leaseholders who do not hay or graze their Waterbank land will allow other livestock producers to use it.”

Established by the 1981 Legislature and administered by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture (NDDA), the State Waterbank Program is a cooperative effort of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, the State Water Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service and NDDA.

“State law requires that the director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department consent to opening the acreage to haying and grazing,” Goehring said. “Director Terry Steinwand agrees with this decision and has been supportive and helpful in moving this forward.”

The program provides participating landowners with a financial incentive to preserve wetlands through five- or 10-year agreements. During the agreement period, a participating landowner may not "drain, burn or fill or otherwise destroy the wetland character" or use the land for agricultural purposes, including cultivation, grazing or haying.

The program is funded by a combination of federal and state monies and through fund-raising activities.

Currently, 24 leases involving total of 2,412 acres is contracted under the program. The program is most heavily used in eastern North Dakota; one third of the leases are in Griggs County.