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Rounds: Let Ag Industry Decide If Prairie Wetlands Should Be Protected or Plowed

Senator M. Michael Rounds wants the ag-industrial complex to determine whether or not the land they want to tile, plow, and monetize qualifies as wetlands, not the Natural Resources Conservation Service, thus giving farmers the chance to continue qualifying for socialist handouts even as they destroy the prairie’s ecological diversity.

Julie Sibbing is the associate vice president for land stewardship with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). She compared the proposed state-level committees made up of landowners to “the fox guarding the henhouse.”

“You would take the highly scientific process of identifying what a wetland is and turn it over to farmers to help their friends,” Sibbing said [Joshua Haiar, “Wildlife Group Calls Rounds’s Wetlands Bill ‘Egregious’, But Some Farmers Say It’s Overdue,” South Dakota Searchlight, 2022.10.26].

Rounds defends his corporate capture of environmental regulation with more ag mythmaking:

Rounds disagrees. He sees farmers and ranchers as stewards of the land they own.

“And so to somehow suggest that the folks that live on the land would do stuff to destroy their land, I think, is wrong,” Rounds said [Haiar, 2022.10.26].

But we’re not talking about hardy individual farmers living on their land. We’re talking about corporate overlords converting the land and its natural diversity into an efficient monocultural hellscape with no inconvenient wetlands. An actual farmer agrees:

Ryan Roehr farms in the northeastern Prairie Pothole region of the state. He said wetland oversight is already too lax, and the proposed bill would make things worse.

“People are already draining wetlands illegally, they’re just not getting caught,” he said. “I think this bill is a big push from the chemical companies, the seed companies and the drain-tile companies to get more business” [Haiar, 2022.10.26].

Rounds’s bill shouldn’t go anywhere as long as President Biden hangs onto his veto pen. But the Alito Court may strip the EPA of its ability to protect our wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

It seems that, one way or another, Rounds and his party are determined to drain our Prairie Potholes.


  1. larry kurtz 2022-10-27 07:38

    If you believe the coyotes should be guarding the chicken coop you’re a Republican. As water shortages loom western states are gearing for war with one another and with downstream states.

    When the US Constitution was written the Federalists argued for a strong central government with co-equal branches but today neo-Federalists advocate for a weaker central government with a strong unitary executive. Nevertheless, Republicans and their toadies cry government overreach while WOTUS architects regroup for another round in Congress. But, today Sackett v. EPA is in the Supreme Court spotlight in a test of the authority of the agency to regulate wetland protection and those of us in the environmental community are scared spitless that the packed Court will rule for the Earth haters.

  2. larry kurtz 2022-10-27 08:40

    Why does the Wal-Mart clan want a fat finger in the cover-crop pie? USDA doesn’t say but the best guess is that the nation’s largest grocer needs a seat at this table so it can grab any hoped-for carbon credits to maintain–or even grow–its massive carbon footprint. These agbiz super powers aren’t the only elephants crowding USDA’s carbon trough. Other partners in other projects include Archer Daniels Midland, John Deere, Campbell Soup, Keurig-Dr. Pepper, Nestle’, Mosaic, Anheuser-Busch, Smithfield Foods, Bayer, and many more.

  3. Donald Pay 2022-10-27 09:00

    Many farmers and ranchers are good stewards of the land and the water. Some aren’t. The ones who aren’t are why we have laws and regulations. It’s the same with driving, or any other activity. Protection and commonsense regulation of wetlands is necessary for water quality, wildlife production and flood control. This benefits many people and lessens the costs to others and to society in general.

  4. mike from iowa 2022-10-27 09:16

    Cardboard Mike must have ignored the lessons from dust bowl Kansas or else never learned them to begin with. Follow the pesos and find the culpable.

  5. Edwin Arndt 2022-10-27 09:42

    When I was like 12, maybe 14 years old, the federal government paid cost
    sharing to farmers to drain wetlands. My Dad drained a slough onto a
    neighbor’s land, and the neighbor drained a slough onto land that belonged
    to my Dad. This was around 1956.
    Now wetlands are deemed sacrosanct by some in EPA. Sackett V. EPA
    has drawn a lot of coverage in the farm press. According to the pictures
    I’ve seen the argument is over little more than a water puddle. If you
    google Sackett V. EPA you will likely find more info (pro and con) than you care to read.

    I suspect that within 20 years or so farmers will be encouraged to drain
    whatever they can and plant every possible acre to produce food for
    the increasing world population.

    And round and round and round she goes.

  6. larry kurtz 2022-10-27 09:48

    Ethanol is not food. Urban sprawl is not food.

    The number of acres in ‘agroecosystems’ has tripled since the 1940s but poor ag practices like tiling have made soils unable to absorb rainfall creating toxic runoff and flooding.

    In the 90s and 2000s my conservationist father wept as shelter belts were being cleared for center-pivot irrigation and as fossil water was being pumped from fragile aquifers for the industrial agriculture now killing his once-beloved Brookings County. Today the Chinese ring-necked pheasant isn’t wildlife but it is a canary in a chemically and genetically engineered corn mine.

  7. sx123 2022-10-27 10:15

    In a dry spring, plant through the sloughs knowing they have a good chance to get flooded by a few rains later on. If they do, count as insurance loss. Profit. Beer money. If they don’t, great, beer money. Maybe there are regulations about this, dunno.

  8. P. Aitch 2022-10-27 10:39

    Water seeks its own level. When you tile you selfishly move America’s water but, as Edwin noted, you also move your problem to your neighbor.

  9. P. Aitch 2022-10-27 11:06

    Farm Thinking:
    “If I truly believe our family farm is going to stay in the family and eventually be owned by my great grandchildren it’s a good bet that someday this slough is going to be worth more to them than the acreage I’ll gain by tiling. That’s the way the future will unfold. A slough of lowland, which seems nearly worthless now will be just the opposite 100 years from now. That’s what history has shown, and history should be learned from. ”
    “There are groups in rural SD that are almost universally hated by us who actually reside here on our lands. Two examples would be the corporate group of Cincinnati Doctors who own the farm next to me or the Hutterite Colony who bought the farm next to me. Would tiling my slough onto their land make me a bad neighbor; when it’s obvious they would tile their slough onto my valuable acreage with no thoughts or cares about my loss or thoughts or cares about we group of farmers in this part of the county.?”

  10. All Mammal 2022-10-27 11:59

    I wanna cuss so badly. I shake as I read this. Tears flowing down. What is the matter with these greedy fools! I swore as a kid I would always be on the side of the good earth, even if it meant warring with humans.

    Bring back the beaver so the water can stay in the dirt! Break up the corporations! Especially Monsanto aka Bayer!

  11. John 2022-10-27 12:03

    Edwin, you are wrong. The global population is projected to decrease, by billions.
    There is no “food shortage”. The “hunger crisis” is a logistical crisis, a shipping issue.
    There is no justifiable reason to drain and / or plow wetlands. None. And there is no justification for over-plowing, over-grazing, and over-fertilizing.

    Glance at this before and after photo of the average poorly managed land verses well managed native land on the same plot.

  12. Edwin Arndt 2022-10-27 12:54

    John, where my farm is, 20 miles north of Sisseton, we have many sloughs.
    There is no practical way and in most cases no possible way to drain them.
    We have a great many nuisance potholes that could be drained and some
    are being drained. Last year (2021) we planted all of our potholes and also
    harvested them. This spring we had to plant around every pothole we had and then it
    got very dry. Those potholes produced nothing. I do wish some of the people on this
    blog would make an effort to be reasonable and practical.
    I have seen no projections that global population will decrease. There are
    some projections that by 2050 the global population will be around 9 billion.
    I also know that some thoughtful people do not think that will happen.
    Water has been drained and dammed for as long as there has been civilization.
    There is a lot of room for discussion here, but don’t mess with my
    beer money.

  13. P. Aitch 2022-10-27 13:39

    Edwin, old Amigo .. I know you’re pretty tuned in to the modern world up there, twenty miles north of Sisseton but try to imagine this. Maybe, just because you’ve not heard of something doesn’t necessarily mean it hasn’t been projected.
    Use your search engine on your phone (Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, or Baidu) and search Global population will decrease in the future. I did and the first five articles, from quite reputable sources, are about how the global population will decrease in the future.
    Just sayin’. And, I sincerely hope you have enough beer money to get all the Grain Belt, Schmidt, and Hamm’s your pleasure receptacles need.

  14. All Mammal 2022-10-27 13:52

    Pleasure receptacles, P? I will try that one out. The barbs are much sharper than my blunt ‘face hole’.

    Let us for a split second consider the 7th generation….. will they benefit off a state long turned into a parking lot? I assume they would be so busy correcting all our trashy, selfish ways, they won’t have time to sympathize with the reasoning of, “I own it, therefore I’m a good steward and can turn it all into money if I please”. Money isn’t wealth. Sell outs. You are selling out the 7th generation for way too cheap. Please don’t be corporate punks.

  15. Edwin Arndt 2022-10-27 14:55

    P. I was always partial to schmidt when they still made it.
    Since I still have a flip phone I had to use my desk top to google the
    population information. In my short search, nowhere did I find that
    anyone projected global population to decrease. Some areas were decreasing
    but on the whole, global population is increasing.
    Oh, sorry, Elon Musk thought population was going to collapse, but demographers
    did not agree.

  16. HydroGuy 2022-10-27 17:03

    To say ecoterrorist death cult member Mike Rounds is being willfully obtuse and disingenuous with his statement would be exceedingly charitable. Farmers with no compunction about wetland drainage view said activity as an “improvement” of their property–damn the negative externalities and Golden Rule, full speed ahead!–the explicit goal of agricultural drainage being to flush a greater volume of water downstream as fast as possible. That a guy whose home was previously flooded has no qualms whatsoever about promoting an activity that exacerbates flooding in nearly all circumstances is peak hypocrisy. Don’t worry, Mike, when you’re in a bind you, Kristi Noem, and the rest of your shameless farm country welfare recipients masquerading as fiscal conservatives can just hit the ever-reliable taxpayer trough for a few billion, right?

    In the agricultural drainage world, natural watercourses are viewed as nothing but “ditches”–chemical sewers, really–to convey toxified water off site and out of mind. Watersheds dominated by intensively drained row crops (i.e., corn and soy monocultures) have waterbodies that are nearly universally impaired by farm chemicals, not to mention aquifers often contaminated with fertilizer-derived nitrates at levels many times the drinking water standard (taxpayer funded rural water systems to the rescue!) And what about the biggest agricultural drainage outlet of all? The evisceration of life and loss of livelihoods within the thousands of square miles of dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico isn’t troubling in the least to the welfare kings and queens of the Midwest and their Big Ag overlords; they’ll just use their taxpayer checks to escape the sacrifice zone they’ve created and vacation with DeSantis along FL’s east coast or buy second homes with the radical Republican crowd in AZ.

  17. Mark Anderson 2022-10-27 19:07

    Well Edwin, growing up in Highmore right after school my friends and I would go to my car get our shotguns out and drive north to all those little damned sloughs and fill up on ducks. They were perfect. In fact one time my friends Don McLaughlin, Bret Bloomenrader and myself jumped up each fired twice and got all six ducks at one dam. An absolutely great performance. It was dry back in 1970 so I don’t know about today. If the GOP screws things up it will be easy to see, won’t it? You can all take the shotgun off the Rounds sculpture or remove the dog, I don’t care.

  18. runs_with_fire 2022-10-28 06:28

    It seems to me that wetlands contribute to rainfall. Drain all the Wetlands and you (we) contribute to drier hotter growing seasons/summers. We would be turning our rain fed growing season in to a dry dusty wasteland where only those with irrigation systems would be able to grow squat. Sucking dry the aquifers that have allowed us to grow and prosper as a Nation.

    I abhor those that would take away our grand children’s future with their short sightedness and/or contempt for well thought out wetland management plan.

    What is the next step? To sell off our National Forests, National Parks along with our National Monuments and BLM lands all in the name of progress and growth.
    Invest in Land not Money. Land is forever Money is not.

  19. mike from iowa 2022-10-28 09:23

    As best as I remember the old commercial back when…

    They drink the beer that is known as Schmidts
    They’ve only taste for the best
    The beer that grew with the greatest/grandest land
    That grew with the great Northwest

    Schmidts was still being brewed as of 2021, but not by any original brewery.

  20. Marie 2022-10-28 10:37

    As the Environmental Working Group notes, federal crop insurance is the gift that keeps on giving to landowners–as wetlands disappear.
    4/28/2015 Boondoggle: “Prevented Planting” Insurance Plows up Wetlands, Wastes $Billions

    Come rain or come shine, South Dakota’s landowners are at the head of this welfare line.
    2/24/2022 New EWG map highlights Mississippi River region crop insurance payout ‘hot spots’

    And as the federal farm program largesse grows and grows–Senator Rounds angles for more.
    8/17/2022 The Farm and Food File–“Our Money, Their Mouth, Your Choice.”

  21. Richard Schriever 2022-10-29 08:03

    P Aitch, I have an anti-vaxxer co-worker who has made the claim that in 10 years 2/3s of the world’s population will have died due to the “poisonous experimental” vaccine. I have made a note of that prediction and let him know that wherever I am in the world in 10 years, I will contact him and remind him of that prediction.

  22. leslie 2022-11-18 03:58

    Potholes-schmottholes. Rapid City “stewarded” the hay fields 30 years ago by starting to dry them up.

    Further west the Colorado River, as we all have become aware has the same problem. Big problem!
    “If the Rocky Mountains’ winter snowpack is like a huge reservoir that feeds the Colorado River system, then the alfalfa fields stretching from western Colorado to Southern California comprise a sort of anti-reservoir, sucking up a good portion of the water in order to feed beef and dairy cattle in the U.S., China, even Saudi Arabia.”

    I live on a hay field and irrigated water use is anything but efficient, except for the grandfathered-in cow puncher, hobby-rancher, or the monopolist John Dutton’s of the west.

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