I think it’s safe to say that spring is here. Buds are showing on trees. Alfalfa and wheat fields are beginning to green. Farmers are bursting with excitement and anticipation of warmer weather and a new crop year is on their minds. 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. In order to keep us sustainable in our businesses, we have a mindset that every day is earth day on the farm.
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, freshwater 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 outcrop 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 across the state have been 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. Every day is Earth Day for a farmer and we all should be reminded of that.
Kevin Krentz was elected president of Wisconsin Farm Bureau in 2020. He is a dairy farmer from Berlin.
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