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League Tells USDA to Withdraw Swampbuster Rule

Duane Hovorka, Agriculture Program Director
Wetland drainage on an agriculture field. Credit: USFWS.

The Izaak Walton League of America and eight IWLA divisions and chapters joined 75 other farm, conservation, and environmental groups last week in signing a comment letter on a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) interim rule on the Swampbuster provision of the Farm Bill. Swampbuster requires that farmers who accept Farm Bill commodity, insurance, farm loan, and other benefits must refrain from filling or draining wetlands to grow crops, and the new rules were USDA’s attempt to codify some of its wetland identification procedures.

The joint letter, circulated by the National Wildlife Federation and Izaak Walton League, notes the many problems with USDA’s proposed method of identifying wetlands and urges USDA to withdraw the rule and replace it with one that accurately identifies wetlands, including seasonal wetlands.

The Izaak Walton League also filed a longer set of comments detailing problems with the rule and with USDA’s process for identifying wetlands. Many USDA offices rely on July or August aerial photos to spot wetlands, even though in places like the prairie pothole region, most of the seasonal wetlands that provide migratory and nesting habitat for ducks in the spring have dried up by late summer when those photos are taken. USDA also proposed to automatically approve thousands of wetland maps drawn up from 1990 to 1996 that delineate which wetlands are protected by Swampbuster, even though USDA has admitted that those maps are inaccurate.