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The Journal Gazette

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  • Kron

  • Clemens

Thursday, June 20, 2019 1:00 am

Amid rainy spring, farmers adapt

Larry Clemens and Randy Kron

Larry Clemens, left, is Indiana state director of The Nature Conservancy. Randy Kron is president of Indiana Farm Bureau. 

 

Midwestern states have seen their fair share of rain this spring, keeping farmers out of the fields during planting season, but none more than Indiana.

Consistent, heavy rains through the winter and spring have left fields too wet to plant, jeopardizing the income of Hoosier farmers across the state. These farmers are the heart of the agriculture industry in Indiana, which provides billions of dollars of revenue, hundreds of thousands of jobs and accounts for more than 60% of our land use across the state.

So far this year, just 67% of nearly 5.5 million acres of corn are planted, according to Monday's U.S. Department of Agriculture crop report.

Last year at this time, 100% of corn was planted. The story's the same with soybeans with only 42% planted compared to 96% last year.

It seems when it rains, it pours.

The weather adds another layer of complexity to the already heavy burden that has been placed on those who produce the food we need. The imposed tariffs and other regulatory changes cause concern as do the ever-present expenses that come with the need to maintain and upgrade equipment, feed the soil with fertilizer and other costs of running a farm.

Heavy rainfalls are becoming the norm during planting season, and they're causing farmers to rethink their techniques. For years, groups such as the Indiana Farm Bureau and The Nature Conservancy have been listening to farmers to better understand their field practices and what challenges they face. The groups have been working with farmers to help them prioritize conservation as they push for higher yields. When we break down the barriers that prevent trying new practices on the field, farmers are able to implement tactics to improve soil health while decreasing the amount of sediment and nutrient runoff that fill our waterways.

While you might not care to know the specifics of flood plain restoration, easements and cover crops, it's important to know that they are good for the environment, help with soil health, improve yields and abate floods.

The real bottom line for all of us is a more prosperous agricultural community and cleaner, healthier water for all Hoosiers.

Farmers are the original environmentalists. As farmers ourselves, we understand the relationship between water conservation and farming and have focused on it with our partners in agriculture and with state and federal agencies.

Through certifications like The Nature Conservancy's 4R program, we can educate our farmers about better ways to manage fertilizer so less runs off into waterways. The 4R program helps farmers apply the right form of fertilizer at the right rate and right time and in the right place through a set of voluntary guidelines. Other efforts include flood plain restoration and stormwater management.

All of these efforts help build a resilient agricultural landscape in Indiana to provide farmers conservation opportunities, even in rainy planting seasons such as this.

Farmers, like the state's agriculture landscape, are resilient. We may be drowning in flooded fields, but it provides renewed opportunities for agriculture and freshwater.