Farmers Embracing Their Role In Protecting The Environment
by Cristina DC Pastor
USA Rice Federation (USA Rice) and Ducks Unlimited (DU) recently forged a new partnership that will serve as a model of cooperation and communication between a farm group and a conservation organization.
The USA Rice-DU Stewardship Partnership will address rice production, waterfowl and water conservation projects, programs and policies that are mutually beneficial to both organizations and to society.
“The USA Rice Federation and DU are honored to combine the people and resources from our organizations to preserve the unique, interconnected relationship of rice production, waterfowl and water,” said USA Rice Producers’ Group Chairman Linda Raun, a Texas rice producer. “We are enthusiastic to work together to preserve and expand the values and benefits that waterfowl, rice fields and water contribute to society.”
While this partnership is certainly groundbreaking, it is likely to become a more common practice, given that American farms are increasingly becoming a haven for the country’s wildlife as consciousness to conserve continues to grow.
“There are some conservation practices that should be part of standard practice for agricultural production,” said Mark Tomer, a soil scientist for the agricultural research service of the USDA in Ames, Iowa.
According to Tomer, some of the practices for soil health include no-tillage techniques to protect the soil, the use of cover crops and living mulches to build up the soil, and a limit to the use of excessive nutrients placed in the land.
Over half of America’s farmers intentionally provide habitat for wildlife such as deer, moose, and fowl, according to the American Farm Bureau. Conservation cost-share through farm bill programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), gives funding to farmers and ranchers to prevent soil erosion, preserve and restore wetlands, clean the air and water, and enhance wildlife.
Analysts report an encouraging presence and growth in wildlife, enhancing biodiversity in farmlands.
Over a 10-year period from 1992 to 2002, for example, about 25 million ducks were produced in the Northern Plains CRP grasslands, according to Art Allen, a wildlife biologist from Colorado who worked with the U.S. Geological Survey. He said about 90 avian species use CRP grasslands for breeding habitat. Before the CRP, only 48 percent of counties in the Texas panhandle reported the presence of deer. That number has since jumped to 88 percent under the conservation program, he said.
With the help of this important conservation assistance, American farmers have increasingly practiced crop rotation, or growing different crops in succession on the same land. Another practice is contour farming, where farmers plant crops across the slope of the land to conserve water and protect the soil from being washed away.