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Farmers Hopeful for Changes During Water Summit

Some Minnesota farmers want to see more cover crops used to help the state's water quality. (iStockphoto)
Some Minnesota farmers want to see more cover crops used to help the state's water quality. (iStockphoto)
February 26, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota is holding its first-ever Water Summit this weekend, with Gov. Mark Dayton hosting talks about the serious challenges facing the state's water supplies.

One of the big issues that will come up during Saturday's talks is expanding the use of cover crops on Minnesota farms. Supporters of the idea say planting crops such as perennial grasses or winter rye can help protect drinking water and keep farmland from eroding.

Darrel Mosel, a Sibley County farmer, is heading to the talks with hopes that the idea will take root among his peers.

"Without making such unbelievable, drastic changes in cropping patterns and the farm economics," he said, "that really is probably the best solution to cleaning up the water quality, is cover crops."

Some farmers have been slow to adopt cover crops, saying they fear losing out on government subsidies for growing more traditional crops such as corn and soybeans. Still, Mosel said he is hoping those concerns will be addressed this weekend.

Conservation groups, such as the Land Stewardship Project, have suggested that changes could be made to the next federal farm bill to add incentives for growing cover crops. Mosel said it is an idea that should have been put in place 40 years ago, before Minnesota's waterways became so polluted.

"If the farm bill can pay farmers or subsidize farmers for doing things that conserve the water and clean up the water, that's a way better way to spend the money," he said. "I think taxpayers across America would certainly agree with that and would want that."

Dayton's Water Summit also will be focused on several other topics, including how Minnesota's drinking and wastewater systems need about $11 billion in upgrades.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN