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Published May 07, 2012, 08:28 AM

Conservation programs key to farm bill

HUDSON, S.D. — One of the American farmer’s primary responsibilities is protecting our farmland’s soil and water.

By: Dan Gillespie, Agweek

HUDSON, S.D. — One of the American farmer’s primary responsibilities is protecting our farmland’s soil and water.

For the long-term food security of our nation, we must have productive soils that are not washing away or depleted of nutrients and organic matter.

On my farm, I have used two important working land conservation farm programs to enhance the productivity of my land: the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program.

With EQIP, under a specific provision for organic production, I repaired waterways and improved my nutrient plan. Through the CSP, I receive support for five years of good stewardship and ongoing maintenance of conservation practices including putting in things such as buffers along a creek seeded into native grasses.

Both have been good programs for my farm, helping me reduce erosion and increase soil fertility. In the end, I hope to build high-quality soils and leave a legacy of land stewardship for my children and their children to inherit, follow and learn.

On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., to talk with members of Congress about farm bill investments in conservation, I looked out the airplane window at those thousands of acres and it made me think about the potential for those lands to provide economic opportunity and for those lands to be part of a national approach for improving water quality, increasing wildlife habitat and ensuring healthy soil.

But as you drive around farm country, one can be discouraged when looking closer to what’s happening on the land. You see an increase in tracts of land which have gone to one crop parcels with no rotation except year to year.

You see a production method of — one day in with the equipment, one day out. And you see the disappearance of grass waterways and buffer zones. Unfortunately, the result is soil washing away down the creek. I think some operators do not know their land is washing away because they are not on it or don’t care. This neglect is not good for the land, our waterways or the image of farming.

Providing farmers with the tools and conservation programs for working farmlands is desperately needed, and I think it is the greatest investment a farm bill can make. These programs can provide financial incentives and teach all of us how to better care for the land, while farming it. We need a farm bill this year, and we need a bill that makes major investments in programs that achieve soil and water conservation.

Editor’s Note: Gillespie is a Hudson, S.D., farmer.

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