Whether or not the ag and environment finance bill, which contains some of Gov. Mark Dayton’s requested buffer requirements, survives veto or not, one thing is clear — farmers need to be proactive in addressing conservation efforts on their farms.
Dennis Johnson, a district conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Ivanhoe, Minn., says now is the time for producers to figure out a plan.
Johnson, who concentrates mostly on soil health, says farmers don’t have to make drastic changes to have an impact.
“The concern of the general public is keeping soil and sediment from getting into a water course,” he said. “Everyone saw how the ground moved this past winter and how the ditches were dirty. Just having some cover crops out there or less fall tillage would’ve helped.”
Johnson also says now is a good time for farmers to look into a conservation reserve program (CRP) and see what options are available for buffers on their farms.
“CRP is a very good option to put a buffer in to start with,” he said. “I would definitely have farmers come in and look at a good CRP program.”
Joe Smentek, Minnesota Soybean Director of Environmental Affairs, said farmers need to take notice after everything that has transpired over the past six months.
“Whether a farmer likes it or not, buffer language was passed by the House and Senate,” he said. “A veto may delay things, but farmers should not.”
Smentek said working with county soil and water professionals is a good first step for farmers.
“Soil and water conservation specialists in your county can help get the conservation practice out in your field that is going to benefit your farm and the water quality in the watershed.” he said.
Smentek said Dayton’s buffer initiative has sparked interest in conservation among farmers and put an emphasis on using SWDC resources, something he says the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) applauds.
“Better funding for groups tasked with educating farmers about these issues and helping producers get enrolled in these programs is good for farmers and for water quality.”
Johnson sees an additional benefit in producers using cover crops, buffers and conservation tillage practices.
“What we are working with producers on is soil health,” he said. “We want their soil to stay put and be healthy. We don’t want it to leave their farm and neither do they.”
Smentek encourages all MSGA members and all soybean farmers to work with their local soil and water professionals. He said now is the time to start looking at conservation practices.
“The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council has invested in conservation tillage studies along with research in making cover crops work in Minnesota’s environment,” he said. “These two practices highlight a very fundamental truth that is often overlooked in this debate. Many of the things that will help clean our waters also help farmers’ bottom line. Keeping nutrients in the fields and having healthy soil in those fields will improve farmers’ profitability while cleaning up the water.”
“Producers being proactive with this, whether they produce corn or soybeans, is a good thing for agriculture,” he said. “If a producer is thinking about this, they should contact their local soil and water person and find out their options. Just see what is out there.”