Tom Vilsack

Tom Vilsack

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Thursday that $9 million is available for farmers in Iowa and elsewhere to set up agriculture-only Wetlands Mitigation Banks.

Right now, the mitigation banks that exist, give an advantage to big developers over individual farmers, according to Vilsack.

“Several states have begun the process of establishing agriculture-only mitigation banks that are available only to producers. Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota are good examples,” Vilsack said. The mitigation banks can be a “helpful tool” for farmers, according to the ag secretary. “Producers can purchase credits generated from previously drained wetlands, which are restored and approved for wetland mitigation, to offset the loss of benefits where a producer is installing new drainage in a wetland,” Vilsack said.

The wetland mitigation banks program is funded through money authorized by Congress through the 2014 Farm Bill. “There are a number of states that need to be targeted; Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Georgia, Nebraska, Michigan, Virginia, and Missouri are (states) that have a great need for the mitigation banks,” Vilsack said.

The banks can be set up by states, tribes, local governments, or other interested third-party entities and will be overseen by the U.S.D.A.’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).