It was 1951. Looking out their kitchen window they watched neighbors rescue the family car and close the shed doors so that other belongings didn’t float out the doors. The peaceful south fork of the Bad Axe River had become a raging torrent. Others weren’t as lucky, and they lost more. They were forced to abandon homes and farms. There was nothing left to salvage. For them, a little water seeping into their partial basement was the easiest clean up.
Fast forward to 2018 and the same house had water in the same partial basement, even with five flood control structures up stream that weren’t available in 1951. In many ways, the flooding was worse than 1951, and many old-timers agreed. More damage to crops and stream banks and more lost homes and outbuildings.
Severe climate events are happening every year. With farmers and advocates stepping up to mitigate these events, lives and livelihoods have been saved although, Mother Nature seems to have stepped up her game even more.
No matter where you live, water plays a role in your life, too. Can you think of some examples?
Wisconsin Farm Bureau has and will continue to be front and center during discussions about what can be done with this natural resource. Farm Bureau has continued to be at the table representing you, our members, as well as friends and family. Together we are making a difference.
One example of the advocating work we are doing is by having representatives on the Lieutenant Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change. I am proud to serve as one of those representatives.
The discussions have centered around agriculture’s role in combating environmental issues. Those outside of agriculture are looking for farmers to improve. They are interested in farmers storing more carbon and they want zero environmental accidents. They are demanding clean, safe and plentiful water for all. Without the necessary science, they are proposing regulations that target agriculture’s role in water contamination without realizing that agriculture is only part of the issue. We need to work together to solve the complex issues of groundwater contamination, run off during extreme weather events, flooding and carbon sequestration. You and I both know farmers are not the problem, but part of the solution.
Producer-led watershed groups and Discovery Farms have been great at providing farm-level and watershed-level data that helps us understand the effects of farming practices.
Wisconsin Farm Bureau is a dedicated supporter of producer-led watershed groups and Discovery Farms. We need more science-supported information and local solutions that will allow us to implement on-farm practices that have the desired effect on solving complex issues.
In my area of the state, the Southwest Wisconsin Groundwater and Geology study (SWIGG) and Driftless Area Water Study (DAWS) is providing baseline data regarding groundwater contamination in southwest Wisconsin. Finding the sources of contamination will help target effective practices and regulations. Without this information we can’t put effective practices in place that solve this contamination issue. However, we can’t just throw money and time at the problem and hope it works. There is so much more to it.
Stream bank protection, trout cribs, flood control structures, dry dams, contour farming, contour strips, grassed waterways, no-till farming, minimum-till farming, rotational grazing, cover crops, prairie strips and rainwater capture are climate-smart practices employed by farmers around Wisconsin.
Many farmers have been the best at protecting their land and our resources. They develop and follow nutrient management plans to protect surface and groundwater. These farmers have generations of experience that they should be proud of. But, have we done a good job of sharing these successes outside of our circles? Something I ponder.
Daunting challenges have been met at every turn and overcome with diligence, demanding work and ingenuity. Many farmers contribute this wisdom of experience and innovation every day to help make Wisconsin a better place to live, work and play. They are involved in county committees, state task forces, watershed groups, stewardship groups and many others as they advocate for the environment and agriculture. A true partnership with the land.
Don’t let the flood of water discussions wash your farm’s legacy away. Just like the floods of the past, we will survive this. Decide how you will create a ripple in the water conversation in your community and don’t delay in taking action.
Nigh is a dairy farmer in Vernon County and represents District 3 on the WFBF Board.
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