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Conservation Touted as WI Farmers Push Through Tough Times

Supporters of conservation practices, such as cover crops, are hoping to convince more farmers to incorporate them into their operations as market challenges persist. (Adobe Stock)
Supporters of conservation practices, such as cover crops, are hoping to convince more farmers to incorporate them into their operations as market challenges persist. (Adobe Stock)
May 19, 2020

FOND DU LAC, Wis. -- Wisconsin farmers aren't immune to changing weather patterns affecting the Midwest. That's why those who are adopting conservation practices hope other farmers follow suit.

The National Climate Assessment said heavy downpours and flooding are among the biggest climate-change threats facing the upper Midwest. The report said the frequency of days with very heavy precipitation is projected to increase for the region.

Larry Clemens with The Nature Conservancy pointed to the wet conditions in states such as Wisconsin in 2019 that caused major headaches for farmers.

"In many areas, we had a wet spring, so crops got planted late, which meant they got harvested late," Clemens said.

He said that's why his group is working with the agriculture community to promote conservation practices, such as cover crops. He said these are tools that are starting to gain more acceptance as farmers try to overcome all the obstacles being thrown their way in today's market.

In Wisconsin, other groups and agencies involved include the Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Clint Hodorff farms near Fond du Lac, and said the practices can help maintain soil health, which in turn can do a better job withstanding extreme weather events.

"It's been a little bit of everything: your change in your tillage, your change in cover crops, your change in manure injection," Hodorff said. "So we've seen definitely a positive impact from this."

Hodorff said he's convinced the practices he's adopted made last year's wet season less bad than it could've been.

The Nature Conservancy's Paige Frautschy recently served as the group's agriculture strategy manager in Wisconsin. She said the group is assisting by providing funding for cost-sharing incentives for commonly used practices. And she said they're helping with efforts that center around outreach.

"My hope is that we'll see it kind of exponentially grow as we learn more and as farmers note the benefits of these practices not only to their operation, but also environmentally," Frautschy said. "There's good water-quality and conservation benefits as well."

She said their partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is aimed at getting a better read on how these practices are improving water quality. And farmers such as Hodorff say outreach is key, since many farmers face a host of issues in today's market and don't always have the time to research helpful programs and practices.

Disclosure: The Nature Conservancy - Midwest Region contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Environment, Sustainable Agriculture, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - WI