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WI Dairy Farmer: Conservation Stewardship Program a Win-Win

PHOTO: Wisconsin farmers have until Sept. 12 to renew their contracts with the Conservation Stewardship Program, to get help in improving soil, water, air and habitat quality on their land. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture.
PHOTO: Wisconsin farmers have until Sept. 12 to renew their contracts with the Conservation Stewardship Program, to get help in improving soil, water, air and habitat quality on their land. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture.
August 4, 2014

CADOTT, Wis. – Wisconsin farmers have two months to decide whether to renew their federal agreements to be good stewards of their land.

George Polzin is a fifth-generation dairy farmer with 600 acres and 90 head of milk cows near Cadott in Chippewa County.

Polzin participates in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). He says it's been a good experience.

"This is a program that's, in my opinion, extremely farmer-friendly,” he stresses. “It's not like having some government agency coming out and telling you, 'You have to do this, you have to do that.'

“You get to choose the parts of the program that you want to be involved in, or not involved in."

Farmers enrolled in CSP take steps to improve soil, water, air and habitat quality on their land, and get federal assistance with those projects.

About 20,000 farmers have CSP contracts up for renewal this year, and Polzin thinks every farmer, conventional or organic, should be enrolled.

"I think it's a program that not only is good for the environment and not only good for wildlife, but also good for the farm, and how the non-farm community views the farm," he says.

Re-enrollment began July 11, and there's a two-month window for farmers to renew their contracts through the nearest NRCS office.

Polzin describes the people who run the program as flexible and easy to work with. He calls the Conservation Stewardship Program a win-win, for the farmer and the environment.

Polzin's dairy farm has been in his family for more than 100 years. He says it sometimes surprises him how little people know about where their food comes from, but say they are concerned about keeping family farms alive in Wisconsin.

"Let's face it, there's a huge percentage of the population that has no concept of agriculture – how commercial or family agriculture works,” he says. “If we can do things that they perceive as positive, that's only good for everybody."

For that reason, he says, the Conservation Stewardship Program is a good public relations tool for farmers, showing the public that they can be excellent stewards of the land.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI