An Important Legislative Update for South Dakota Farmers & Contractors
February 15, 2013
Several stakeholders had the opportunity to address the committee and made some great points in opposition to the bill. Below are a few more things to consider as we continue looking for ways to support farmers and our rural economy.
I am Jamie Duininck from Prinsco, Inc. Our company has a 35-year history of partnering with the agricultural industry to advance farming efficiency and production. I am posting this article because I am both excited, and concerned, about the state of our industry.
I am excited because agricultural water management has established such a proven track record of success in the Midwest. That’s a statistical fact. Farmers who utilize responsible water management systems are experiencing improved crop health, higher yields, more efficient use of chemicals, and increased productivity. Those advantages, in turn, have increased their profit margins, raised their land values, and strengthened their area tax base – not to mention made a significant contribution to our world’s food production.
My concern is that those advantages are being lost to the wide spread misuse of information and unfair media coverage of our industry.
Let me give you some examples:
IT IS A MISUNDERSTANDING THAT FARMERS DRAIN WETLANDS AT WILL: In South Dakota and the rest of the United States, it is not permissible to drain a wetland if you are in the farm program, which most farmers are or have been. That’s because on December 23,1985 Congress passed the Swampbuster provision of the Food Security Act. It banned the conversion of wetlands to cropland, punishable by loss of eligibility to many important USDA program benefits including loans, subsidies, crop insurance and price support programs… things that our farmers depend on heavily. It is only the small number of farmers who are NOT in or are LEAVING the farm program who are not bound by this legislation.
IT IS A MISUNDERSTANDING THAT TILING A FIELD IS BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: To get past this falsehood, it is critical that people take the time to better understand how tiling works and see the big picture. Agricultural water management IS environmentally friendly and IS an endorsed best practice by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, or NRCS. Why? Because it can drastically reduce soil erosion, save valuable topsoil, and hold chemicals like phosphorous in the soil profile. Underground tile gives water somewhere to go, rather than remain standing in the fields and eventually wash away. It pulls the water down, through the soil, which triggers a natural filtering process and improves water quality. It also helps plants grow deeper, stronger roots, which in turn makes them more durable and productive.
IT IS A MISUNDERSTANDING THAT TILING HURTS THE LAND: That is simply not true. An investment in water management on the farm actually generates wealth for generations to come. Tiling good cropland only makes the land better because it generates higher yields, which gives landowners and farmers more income. This, in turn, increases land values…. AND when land values increase so does the tax base. Truth be told, much of our tax base in rural America comes from good farmland… income that has helped build schools, hospitals, roads and generally keep our rural way of life strong. It’s not a stretch to say that these hard earned rural amenities have been paid for by our farmers, who have spent the last 20 years fighting for their ability to make a living from land that has often been handed down from generation to generation.