BISMARCKâ€”The co-host of a popular agronomy TV show showed his support Thursday for North Dakota farming legislation.
Ag PhD co-host Brian Hefty was among those to testify in favor of House Bill 1459, aimed at easing the process of getting a tiling permit.
Rep. Wes Belter, R-Fargo, said people who apply for a permit must now go through the State Water Commission. However, the growing interest in tiling has created a heavy load for the commission, he said.
Belter, the prime sponsor of the bill, proposes allowing local water boards to handle the permitting process using an application form created by the state. If the local board has questions, it can ask the State Water Commission for its analysis, Belter said.
The amended bill says installation of an artificial subsurface drainage system comprising 80 acres or more requires a permit.
Local water districts may attach any necessary conditions to an approved permit, but may not deny an application unless itâ€™s of statewide significance or the proposed drainage will flood or adversely affect downstream landowners within one mile.
Permit applicants would need to provide a 30-day notice to downstream property owners within one mile of the proposed subsurface drainage. This will allow time for people to voice any concerns, Belter said.
Flowage easements may be required before receiving a permit.
Tiling is underground tubing that allows farmers to remove excess water. Due to the increasing rainfall in North Dakota, more people are interested in tiling, Belter said.
Sen. Terry Wanzek, R-Jamestown, called the bill a â€œwin-win.â€ The bill isnâ€™t about draining wetlands or established wetlands, he said. Itâ€™s about managing water on land already farmed.
â€œThis is huge in agriculture. Itâ€™s one of the issues that Iâ€™m really excited about this session,â€ Wanzek said.
In his presentation, Hefty said tiling can mean higher yield and less chance for soil compaction.
It can also allow farmers to plant earlier, reduce situations of getting stuck and equipment breakdowns, reduce salt levels and allow for a more predictable growing season, he said.
He believes there are at least 5 million crop acres in North Dakota that are poorly drained today, costing the state about $1 billion annually.
No one testified against the bill. The House Agriculture Committee did not take immediate action. The Senate has a similar bill.