County Farm Bureau Helps Slow Government Acquisition of Farmland

Members of the Nebraska Farm Bureau had been raising questions and concerns since
February about a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposal to expand the Rainwater Basin Wetland Management District in Nebraska. Working with the Clay County Board of Supervisors, the Nebraska Farm Bureau home office and members of the Nebraska Congressional delegation, those farmers will now have a second chance at influencing the UWFWS plan to expand the management district.

The USFWS proposal sought to expand the Rainwater Basin Management District, which covers parts of 13 counties, including Clay County. The USFWS plan called for a 14,000-acre expansion, adding 9,000 acres through fee-title acquisition and 5,000 acres through use of perpetual conservation easements. The USFWS currently owns 22,023 acres in the District of the 24,000 acres previously approved for acquisition. According to USFWS, the proposed expansion was needed to provide additional habitat and access to food for migratory birds.

Local farmers had raised concerns about the USFWS proposal noting that further land acquisition by the federal government would harm the local government tax base by removing land from the county’s tax rolls and reduce dollars that fund roads and other basic county services. Other concerns raised were that such acquisitions could have a negative impact on the local economy, in addition to fears that farmers would have to compete for farmland with the federal government and partnering nonprofit conservation organizations.

After successful requests by the Nebraska Farm Bureau and members of Nebraska’s
Congressional delegation to extend the public comment period, members of the
Clay County Farm Bureau worked with the Clay County Board of Supervisors to send a letter to USFWS citing an executive order from President Obama that requires federal agencies to coordinate efforts with local governments on “federal plan/policy development.”

As a result, the District Manager of the Rainwater Basin Wetland Management District met with members of the Clay County Board of Supervisors and USFWS will now
re-evaluate the proposed expansion and coordinate with the Clay County Board of
Supervisors on any proposed District expansion.

Federally controlled rural acres in the rainwater basin have been an issue in Clay County
for the last several years. The work of the Clay County Farm Bureau and Clay County Board of Supervisors will help ensure future actions in the Rainwater Basin Management District will continue to include the voice of local residents.

To find out more about Farm Bureau activities, visit www.nefb.org. And while there, be sure to connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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