In South Dakota, soil conservation officials and environmental groups are facing off over how to define a wetland.
Under the 1985 "Swampbusters' Farm Bill,
farmers who drain wetlands can't qualify for federal farm
subsidies. But states do the certifying of farmers for Swampbusters
compliance, and last May, the South Dakota office of the Natural
Resource Conservation Service announced a new procedure for
identifying wetlands - one that loosens the process.
Michael Held of the South Dakota Farm Bureau
says the change will level the economic playing field for South
Dakota farmers, who compete with growers in states that have
already developed less stringent regulations.
Instead of defining a wetland as an area that
has water-filled soils and is sometimes swampy, NRCS proposes to do
a fly-over during the month of September, when many seasonally wet
areas aren't distinguishable from the air.
Luanne Napton of the South Dakota Resource Council says the timing
of the aerial survey could spell destruction for 750,000 of South
Dakota's 2 million acres of wetlands. "It's cheating the taxpayer,"
she says. "We're supposed to be paying (NRCS) to protect the
The Resource Council filed a lawsuit
challenging the policy change last year; now, a temporary
restraining order prevents its implementation until the suit is