For the week of December 11, 2000
AFBF Program Encourages Farmers As Proud Water Partners
While most farmers are not scientists in the white-coat-and-test-tube sense, many possess insightful knowledge and expertise of the environs surrounding their daily labors. They observe -- sometimes casually, sometimes with a more critical eye -- the conditions of the natural resources on which they rely to produce food.
Much like a physician, many test their soil to gauge its fortitude. They sweat details such as leaving proper amounts of plant residue on the field's surface to halt the erosive appetite of raindrops. There is environmental and economic reasoning behind their efforts.
But even if their observations are no more formal than digging their hands into the soil, watching a covey of game birds nest down in a buffer strip or marveling over the clarity of a stream running through their acreage, farmers do notice change. They also understand the intricate relationship between farming practices and natural resources. Farmers accept this vigilant mission with a measure of pride.
The American Farm Bureau Federation recently kicked off a new grassroots water quality program that takes advantage of the discerning, watchful eyes of the nation's farmers. As those most familiar with the water resources they live and work near, Farm Bureau's "Proud Water Partners" program highlights and encourages positive leadership roles for farmers in protecting the nation's water resources.
Proud Water Partners is built on insights gleaned from successful state Farm Bureau water quality efforts. Proud Water Partners encourages cooperative leadership from farmers regarding water quality issues, but also recognizes the supportive roles of other groups, government agencies and researchers who are interested in agriculture's success and water quality.
AFBF President Bob Stallman says this dynamic water quality program puts farmers in the driver's seat, and helps them reach out to neighbors and others who believe that a strong agriculture is the best way to tackle any water quality challenge.
While the program focuses on helping farmers discern the biological conditions of local water resources and be familiar with the science behind such determinations, it all starts with observation. By physically identifying any challenges, verifying them through simple scientific evaluation, and working to correct what is correctable, farmers are afforded a positive role in the process -- a role that outright regulation too often disregards. In addition, if a water quality challenge has been previously misidentified, the program provides farmers scientific facts for cooperating with state agencies to correct the matter.
True to the program's motto, America's farmers are: "Working
the land. Protecting the water." Through Proud Water Partners,
farmers will further meld those two concepts into a singular action.
Farmers know that a healthy environment and quality natural resources
are vital to the production of abundant, healthy and safe food.
They know it all starts with water. This new program will help
communicate the message that quality water starts with caring
and observing farmers.
Mace Thornton is the director of new services for the American Farm Bureau Federation.