Governors Water Summit

MSGA President’s Perspective: Water Quality Needs Open Dialogue

The Governor’s Water Summit was an interesting experience. Your Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) directors represented soybean farmers from across the state with a group of diverse backgrounds and opinions.

In hindsight, one thing stood out above all others: Minnesotans do not understand what we do. There is a philosophical difference between farmers and the general public in what farmers should focus on when managing the land. The essence of what farmers do requires their primary focus to be on nature.

Paul Freeman

Paul Freeman, MSGA President

When we plant a seed or raise livestock, working with nature and nurturing what we grow catches our main attention. Farmers are always seeking the best for their crops and livestock.

This sometime leads to conservationists wondering why we are not giving their ideas priority. Again, farmers know at times there is a trade-off between best conservation practices and best crop and livestock husbandry methods, but we also know our farms. One thing the summit did well was bring together those diverse opinions and open up dialogue between the many farmers and farm groups and conservationists. While many ideas were shared, no real solutions exist at this point. But we started a dialogue, and we know as farmers we are quick to adapt better practices as long as it does not hinder bringing forth new life, and impede our ability to run our business.

I encourage all MSGA members and all Minnesotan’s to join in the conversations that occur where you live. Have open discussions about why you use or don’t use a conservation practice on your farm. Share with them your philosophy about running a successful farm operation. Listen to their concerns. Don’t point fingers, but at the same time, don’t ignore non-farm practices that contribute to to poorer water quality. Engage them on real solutions that could work in a major watershed, in a city or non your farm.

We need to inform more and more people about farm practices, and continue to tell our stories. If we don’t, someone else will be making the decisions about how we farm.

Paul Freeman is President of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and farms near Starbuck, Minn. He can be reached at