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Adding Job Creation to List of Benefits From Ag Conservation

Nutrient management, cover crops and alternative tilling are key components of farmer conservation practices, and supporters say these efforts could create a new wave of jobs in the agriculture sector. (Adobe Stock).
Nutrient management, cover crops and alternative tilling are key components of farmer conservation practices, and supporters say these efforts could create a new wave of jobs in the agriculture sector. (Adobe Stock).
June 9, 2020

JEFFERSON, Iawa -- Farmers in the nation's heartland are strongly encouraged to adopt conservation practices to lower their costs and help the environment. But an Iowa farmer says there's a side benefit that nobody talks about: job creation.

Farmer Bill Frederick said he has turned conservation work into a side business that is seeing more growth now than his actual farm.

"We've just hired a full-time employee and we have several seasonal employees and we truck a lot of product down from the Dakotas and Canada and stuff like that," Frederick said. "We keep a lot of trucks busy."

Frederick helps operate a company that provides seeding applications for cover crops, which prevent soil erosion and agriculture runoff.

A 2018 study by Iowa State and the Department of Natural Resources said more than $6 billion worth of conservation practices are in place on Iowa farms and landscapes.

The agriculture community has said in states such as Iowa, farmers routinely see the harmful effects of climate change through flooded fields and other extreme weather events. That has prompted more calls for conservation practices, such as cover crops.

Frederick said this approach protects waterways, while helping with a farmer's bottom line.

Aviva Glaser directs agriculture policy at the National Wildlife Federation. She said this emerging sector of the ag industry can make struggling farm communities more resilient.

"You need to get seeds, you need to get plants, you need to buy equipment," Glaser said. "So I think there's a lot of benefit that comes out of these conservation practices."

She said there still needs to be more government investment in farmer conservation programs, and groups such as hers hope there will be a larger authorization in the next Farm Bill, which is scheduled for renewal in 2023.

Disclosure: National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Salmon Recovery, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - IA