We have been talking about it for a while now. The 4R Plus program, the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, cover crops, and so on. We have told you stories of farmers who have made a gradual implementation of practices, and we have introduced you to farmers who cannonballed into the deep end. As we have shared their experiences, you may have asked yourself, “is this right for my operation?”, or even, “Well, that is all fine and good, but how many people are really doing this?”
Those are good questions, and we will now do our best to answer them.
Audio: Full interview with Susanne Hickey of The Nature Conservancy in Iowa
Susanne Hickey is Director of Conservation Programs for The Nature Conservancy in Iowa. She says there has been an increased interest in conservation practices in Iowa. Producers are looking at multiple ways to improve soil health and reduce nutrient loss.
Hickey says that if you have been farming a certain way for a long-time, it is natural to feel skeptical about changing how you run your operation. She tells producers that they are not alone. Everybody who has started using conservation practices had some level of concern.
Hickey says that soil health must be the focal point in making your decision on the 4R Plus practices. Soil health is what allows you to keep the farm viable and pass it on to another generation. Once you improve soil health, water quality and other environmental benefits will follow.
Hickey says that no matter how far we have come with the adoption of soil health practices, there is still more work to be done in the state. There are many producers out there who are on the fence about implementing these options, and there are those who are skeptical that any substantial benefit can be had to outweigh the changes needed to their operations. Hickey encourages producers to reach out to their crop advisors, NRCS offices, or county soil & water conservation offices about what practices could work in your operation. There is help in advice and financial assistance to get your changes off the ground.