Farmers feed the world while protecting natural resources
By Kevin Krentz
Farmers fully understand that to produce a successful crop, we need our vast natural resources. Sun, air, water and soil are just a few that we rely on. For thousands of years, farmers have fed the world while protecting these resources and operating sustainable family businesses.
Over the past 100 years, many wars have been fought over oil. Over the next 100, many will argue over 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 the world struggle to find it and when you do, you pay a heavy price. . Protecting our drinking water is essential for society and essential for food production.
Farmers will continue to use innovation and practical means to protect this vital resource. However, we have to tell about how we have protected the water and what we are doing to protect it in the future.
We will continue to find solutions to improve our environment and protect our soils and water.
Nutrient management plans help budget crop nutrient requirements. Plans specify crop needs, soil requirements and fertilizer applications. With timely applications of the right amount of nutrients, we will reduce our impacts from nutrients leaking into the water. In the future, we need to ensure that more acres are covered by nutrient management plans. We also need to get more funding for the farmer-led watershed groups. Farmer-led watershed groups provide a way for farmers to use innovation and collaborative efforts to protect water and soil.
Another tool that agriculture can use to protect topsoil and water is the use of cover crops.
Creating a blanket of green crops and crops between cash crops has helped in many ways. It creates a root mass to retain topsoil and create a healthy environment for soil microbes. It also absorbs nutrients and retains them until the next growing season. The use of cover crops has steadily increased over the years and will play a key role in the continued protection of water and soil. Cover crops help recycle nutrients.
Farmers are instinctive recyclers. We feed our livestock the crops we have grown using these precious resources. Livestock help us produce nutritious food for our consumers. We complete the natural cycle by using the waste produced by livestock for the next harvest. But this is just a small glimpse of what farmers are doing for our environment.
Our efficient combustion engines are running smoother than ever before. Some farmers use manure digesters, as well as solar and wind power. We work in partnership on the phosphorus trade, using perennial crops and pastures for carbon sequestration.
Farmers are natural innovators. We will continue to find solutions to improve our environment and protect our soils and water. American farmers will continue to prove to our consumers that we produce the safest, cleanest food in the world while continuing to reduce our footprint on the environment around us.
Farm Bureau carries this message of environmental stewardship through our advocacy and policy work. I am proud to say that we will always carry the message of the hard work done on the farm.
This week, I was fortunate enough to attend a speech by President Joe Biden in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and he mentioned several environmental efforts that his bipartisan infrastructure master plan would affect.
Farmers have similar needs for clean water and sustainable efforts. They have been working for years to improve their sustainability efforts and we hope farmers can participate in conversations about conserving and preserving our natural resources.
We too want to leave our better land, water and air to future generations. Although officially recognized in April, every day is Earth Day for a farmer and we should all remember it.
Kevin Krentz is a dairy farmer and president of the Federation of Wisconsin Agricultural Bureau. A shorter version of this column was originally published by the WFBF. Krentz updated this article to include his observations after attending a speech by President Joe Biden in La Crosse, Wisconsin, this week.