By Kevin Krentz
Farmers fully understand in order to yield a successful crop we need our vast natural resources. The sun, air, water and soil are just some that we rely on. For thousands of years, farmers have fed the world while protecting these resources and operating sustainable family businesses.
During the last 100 years, many wars have been fought regarding oil. During the next 100, many will be fought regarding another precious liquid, water.
Because of its abundance, fresh water is something we take for granted in the Midwest, but many parts of the country and certainly parts of the world struggle to find it and when you do, you pay high prices for it. Protecting our clean water is critical for society and critical for producing food.
Farmers will continue to use innovation and practical means in protecting this vital resource. However, we need to tell the story of how we have protected water and what we are doing to safeguard it in the future.
Nutrient management plans help budget what crops need for nutrients. The plans lay out crop needs, soil requirements and fertilizer applications. With timely applications of nutrients at the right amount, we will lower our impacts of nutrients escaping to water. Moving forward, we need to get more acres covered by nutrient management plans. We also need to get more funding for farmer-led watershed groups. Farmer-led watershed groups provide a way for farmers to use innovation and collaborative efforts in protecting waters and soils.
Another tool that agriculture can use to protect topsoil and water is the use of cover crops.
Creating a cover of green and growing crops in between cash crops has helped in many ways. It creates a root mass to hold topsoil and to create a healthy environment for soil microbes to live. It also takes up nutrients and holds the nutrients until the next cropping season. The use of cover crops has steadily increased over the years and will play a key role in continuing protecting water and soil. Cover crops help recycle the nutrients.
Farmers are instinctive recyclers. We feed our livestock the crops we grew with the help of these precious resources. The livestock help us produce nutritious food for our consumers. We complete the natural cycle by using the waste produced by livestock for the next crop. But this is only a small picture look at what farmers do for our environment.
Our efficient burning engines run cleaner than any time in history. Some farmers are using manure digestors, as well as solar and wind energy. We are partnering on phosphorus trading, using perennial crop and pasture-based farming for sequestration of carbon.
Farmers are natural innovators. We will continue to find solutions to better our environment and protect our soils and water. American farmers will keep proving ourselves to our consumers that we produce the safest, cleanest food in the world while continuing to lower our footprint on the environment around us.
Farm Bureau carries this message of environmental stewardship through both our outreach work and policy work. I am proud to say that we will always carry the message of the hard work being done on the farm.
This week, I had the chance to attend a speech by President Joe Biden in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and he mentioned several environmental efforts his bipartisan infrastructure framework plan would touch.
Farmers have similar wants when it comes to clean water and sustainable efforts. They have been working for years to improve their sustainability efforts and we hope that farmers can be involved in conversations on conservation and preserving our natural resources.
We, too, want to leave our land, water and air better for the next generations. Although it’s officially recognized in April, every day is Earth Day for a farmer and we all should be reminded of that.
Kevin Krentz is a dairy farmer and president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. A shorter version of this column was originally published by WFBF. Krentz updated this piece to include his observations after attending a speech by President Joe Biden in La Crosse, Wisconsin, this week.