Dexter, Mo. Farmers in southeast Missouri have put 90,000 acres into a federal program aimed at providing more wetland habitat for birds.
The federal government has allocated about $40 million to increase wetland habitat in eight states, with about $4.5 million being spent in Missouri.
Dave White, chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, told The Dexter Daily Statesman that the program was developed after the large oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico out of concern for possible pollution on inland marshes.
White said officials estimate that about 50 million birds fly through the region on their way to the coast.
“I believe this will lead to healthier, more resilient bird populations,” White said.
Funding for the program comes from the Wildlife Habitat Program, the Wildlife Incentive Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Wetland Reserve Program.
Farmers get financial incentives to allow land to be used as shallow water wetlands. White said the pay is about $50 per acre for participating farmers.
Davis Minton with Minton AgCo said the program would have been successful only if the farmers were offered incentives. Minton AgCo has about 1,000 acres in wetlands near the Otter Slough Wildlife Management area.
He said he believes that once farmers are enrolled in the program they’ll see the positive environmental impact of increased wetlands.
NRCS officials will be back in late November to check on the results.