Threats of New Regulations on the Horizon

This grass filter strip, planted between my corn field and a creek, traps and filters sediments and nutrients.  It prevents potential pollutants from entering the surface water.

Now that the 2012 election is behind us and government officials are returning to work, new regulations are threatening agriculture.  I’m hearing the Farm Bill will be tied to something, perhaps conservation.  It’s as though farmers will destroy the world if we’re not threatened with something severe enough to make sure that we comply!

Actually, I find it ironic that regulators believe the proverbial stick will be more effective than the carrot when most farmers take great pride in being stewards of the land.  This whole idea of tying any conservation practice to some type of support is not a threat to me – or the great majority of farmers and ranchers.  Conservation is one of our top priorities anyway.  If we don’t take care of our land and soil, it’s not going to produce for very long.

Planted in 1980, this filter strip also serves as a wildlife refuge.  It creates food and cover for small birds and animals.

I will admit that “back in the day” I did enjoy plowing the soil in the fall.  Plowing was a task where you could see what was getting done.  Turning the soil black and covering up corn stalks in preparation for next year’s crop was fun.  It was even fun 20 years ago, and the tractors we used then weren’t nearly as warm as those we use today.

As much as I enjoyed farming, I also realized it was a practice that I needed to reconsider.  That’s why I first tried no-till farming in the 1970s.  At that time, the types of equipment and weed control options available didn’t favor no-till farming.  We also didn’t s today’s higher-yielding seed technology, so I kept different types of minimum tillage practices.

In no-till farming, crop residue is left on the field.  Crop residue helps prevent erosion and can help conserve soil moisture.

I switched to no till about 5 years ago, but this fall I had to do some deep tillage because of effects from the drought and the fact that I use a lot of natural manure.  But even with this tillage pass, the ground is covered by a thick layer of organic matter and is protected from wind and rain.

Bottom line: It doesn’t take a government threat to make farmers do what is right.  Doing what’s right just comes naturally to farmers!