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Protecting Our Investment: Lessons From Soil Erosion

Fields in Iowa show substantial water erosion damage

Images by Tim Olsen: Fields in Iowa show substantial water erosion damage 

After three years of drought conditions in the upper Midwest, we have been blessed to receive adequate–and in some cases, excessive–rainfall. 

February had been much warmer than average and very dry. So dry that fire bans were in effect. When the wind picked up, it was easy to see soil in the form of dust flying from fields without cover crops or that had been tilled in the fall.

In April, rainfall became common. At first, the thirsty soil accepted the water. But as more rain fell in larger amounts over shorter periods of time on soil that was unprotected by cover crops, had little residue, or was fall tilled, that same soil began to leave fields in massive amounts! It was heartbreaking to see the best soil wash away in the form of rill and sheet erosion. 

It’s too bad that there are no literal dollar signs attached to the soil. If there were, farmers might be encouraged to protect their investment better. Instead, some farmers have been filling in washouts with ‘soil,’ but this is really just dirt that does not have the same life-giving nourishment and qualities of intact soil.

There is hope that farmers will learn from this spring’s prominent erosion, clearly seen by so many people beyond just farmers, as our skies and streams have turned brown with our valuable soil. Both the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill include historic increases in overall conservation funding by 25%, which is a great step in the right direction. However, to truly help our farmers control soil erosion and thus become better caretakers of creation, these proposals would be improved by including guaranteed dedicated resources for soil-erosion practices, like cover crops and minimum tillage.

How you can respond: Join us in supporting American farmers by sending a message to policy makers about the benefits of the conservation programs in the Farm Bill, including climate-smart, soil-smart practices that protect against the impacts of extreme weather. Send your message here.

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