Submit Comments on NRCS Proposed Offsite Wetland Determinations

January 29, 2015

We need your voice! The South Dakota Soybean Association encourages farmers to submit comments to the NRCS proposed changes to Section I of the Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota Technical Guides.

These proposed changes would allow NRCS to complete offsite wetland determinations, which means an NRCS employee would never have to visit your field to complete a wetland determination. SDSA believes this could result in alarming inaccuracies, and goes against the landowner’s right to have an on-site wetland determination.

The deadline to submit comments is February 20, 2015. To submit formal comments follow the steps below:

  • Follow this link to!documentDetail;D=NRCS-2014-0013-0054
  • Click “Comment Now” in the upper-right corner. Fill in all required fields. Your name, mailing address, and email address will be required to submit a formal comment.
  • Below, you can find sample comments that SDSA drafted for you to copy or customize.


Comments to Docket Number: NRCS-2014-0013

NRCS Chief Jason Weller
USDA, NRCS, Office of the Chief
1400 Independence Ave. SW, Room 5105-S
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Chief Weller,

I am a farmer from [TOWN], South Dakota, and I am writing this letter in regards to the NRCS proposed changes to Section I of the Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota Technical Guides. I firmly believe the proposed changes would be detrimental to farmers across the state, and I strongly urge NRCS to retract this document and to revise the current mapping conventions to fit NRCS policy.

This new provision would allow NRCS to conduct wetland determinations without ever visiting my field for onsite observations and soil sampling. Especially in the Prairie Pothole Region with unique soils, determining wetlands under the Federal Food Security Act is a complex process that requires onsite observations and soil sampling to determine if a wetland is present.

I understand the backlog issue in our state is alarming, with farmers waiting 12 to 18 months for a wetland determination. While offsite determinations may temporarily reduce the large backlog, it would likely result in a larger volume of appeals because of the inherent inaccuracies of solely relying on remote sensing tools indicated in the proposed state offsite methods.

Require Onsite Appeals / Checks and Balances
All appeals need to be done onsite to ground truth hydric soil indicators. As a landowner, I believe it is my right to have onsite visit during the appeal process.

I also have concerns that the proposed State Offsite Methods (SOSM) do not have checks and balances within the proposal. If the landowner appeals a determination, as written in the proposal, the appeals process will utilize the SOSM under the direction of the same NRCS employee who conducted the initial determination. This process incorporates ZERO checks and balances, leaving the landowner with no fair appeals process.

Give Landowners a Choice
First and foremost, I would like the option to choose onsite or offsite methods for my requsted wetland determinations. Communication between NRCS and landowners is critical to the process. The NRCS should clearly explain both options to help the landowner better understand each procedure. The NRCS employee should also ask for any additional documentation the landowner may have about drainage and soils on the requested tract.

Giving landowners a choice will improve the trust that has been broken between farmers and the NRCS, and will most certainly decrease the number of appeals that would arise due to the offsite procedures.

South Dakota farmers are true conservationists by nature, and we all want to do what is best for our land. We need to see accurate, science-based and timely wetland determinations, and the proposed offsite methods would greatly hinder the accuracy of the determination process.



Comments to Docket Number: NRCS-2014-0013


SDSA has already submitted formal comments. View SDSA Letter to NRCS Chief on Proposed Offsite Methods.