Farmers, Ranchers and Landowners Are Doing Their Part to Improve Water Quality

USDA

But more can be done to achieve greater water quality gains

Drive across Wisconsin or fly overhead and you will see evidence of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) work on the state’s landscape.

Conservation practices such as stream-side buffers, restored wetlands, contour strips, and fields planted with protective cover are just a few visible signs of the agency’s work in our state. NRCS can focus funding and resources to farmers to learn better management practices and methods to make a direct impact on water quality. In 2019 for example, NRCS in Wisconsin partnered with farmers to apply conservation to over 370,000 acres statewide to directly improve water quality. NRCS also signed agreements with producers on 1,316 farms to apply cover crops on 289,000 acres, one of the key soil health practices to improve water quality.

NRCS conservationists in Wisconsin work with farmers, ranchers, private forest landowners, partners, and local soil and water conservation districts to plan and install conservation practices. NRCS offers more than 170 individual practices and suites of practices that can be used to improve soil health, water quality, air quality and wildlife habitat. When planning these practices, NRCS staff works to help producers maintain or improve agricultural productivity.

As the nation celebrates National Water Quality Month in August, NRCS in Wisconsin salutes the conservation-minded farmers, and private forest landowners who do their part daily to improve water quality and other natural resources on their operations. The impacts of their water quality efforts are significant and rewarding. We are fortunate to have clean, safe water for drinking and for agriculture, recreation and other purposes and we appreciate your efforts.

Agriculture can and does play a critical role in improving water quality and other natural resources in our state. Because over 80% of the land is privately owned in Wisconsin, considerable water quality and other natural resource improvements will be achieved by farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners as they make conservation decisions every day.

NRCS and its partners are committed to helping producers find suitable solutions to their natural resource challenges, such as water quality impairment. In many regions of the nation, NRCS offers technical and financial assistance in high-priority watersheds identified by local communities and applicable state agencies.

For instance, the National Water Quality Initiative targets small watersheds with the highest potential for water quality improvements. Its Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watershed Initiative offers incentives to eligible farmers and landowners to carry out voluntary conservation practices that avoid, control, and trap pollution in 13 states, including Wisconsin. Its Great Lakes Restoration Initiative targets producers in select watersheds in the states surrounding the Great Lakes — Huron, Superior, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario. NRCS staff works with farmers and landowners to combat invasive species, protect watersheds and shorelines from non-point source pollution and to restore wetlands in these select watersheds.  NRCS is seeing results from producers’ efforts through these three water-focused initiatives in Wisconsin.

 





 

NRCS is also using the latest technological advances to help producers improve water quality nationwide. NRCS in Wisconsin leads five Demonstration Farm Networks with partners across the state that demonstrate the best, leading-edge conservation practices to reduce phosphorus entering the Great Lakes. Demonstration farmers are partnering with NRCS to install conservation practices proven to help water quality, while also increasing soil health. New technologies, such as low disturbance manure application methods, interseeded multi-species cover crops, denitrifying bioreactors, the irrigation of feed storage area runoff, advanced levels of prescribed grazing and more, are being explored through the partnership.

Our success in improving water quality in Wisconsin rests with our producers and NRCS is confident they will continue to do their part. For many farmers, investing resources in environmental resources is a tradition that goes back generations.

We need more producers to include conservation as part of their operation. Producers who are interested in learning how to integrate conservation into their operation, can visit NRCS Wisconsin’s website www.wi.nrcs.usda.gov for more information about NRCS conservation offerings.

 





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