Water qual­ity dis­cussed at con­fer­ence

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - NEWS - TOM MOR­RI­SON — Chatham Daily News

When a speaker at the South West Agri­cul­tural Con­fer­ence asked the crowd in a ses­sion on water qual­ity whether they thought their farms were con­tribut­ing to phos­pho­rous runoff into lakes and rivers, only a cou­ple of peo­ple raised their hands.

Den­nis Frame of the Wis­con­sin-based agri­cul­tural en­vi­ron­men­tal firm Tim­ber Ridge Con­sult­ing said he doesn’t try to “shame” farm­ers, but they must re­al­ize that no farm has zero runoff.

“We have a bunch of peo­ple who be­lieve that there are just one or two farms do­ing a bad job and most of agri­cul­ture is do­ing a per­fect job,” he said. “What our data shows pretty clearly is even the best farms have one or two or three or four or maybe 10 fields that are re­ally chal­leng­ing for their farm­ing sys­tems.”

Although some peo­ple in the room ad­mit­ted to con­tribut­ing phos­pho­rous, Frame said no one raises their hand when he asks the same ques­tion in the United State. When he tells them they are all con­trib­u­tors, he said the farm­ers usu­ally blame the prac­tices of other farm­ers. “What we need to do then is sit with ev­ery farm and say, ‘We’ve got to fig­ure out what your is­sues are and help you move for­ward on that,’” he said. “Ac­tu­ally, that’s been the most pow­er­ful thing we’ve done in all of our wa­ter­shed pro­jects.”

Frame said he has spent the past 27 years deal­ing with phos­pho­rous and sed­i­ment losses in rivers and lakes.

In 2001, he co-founded the Dis­cov­ery Farms pro­gram out of the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin-Ex­ten­sion, which con­ducts re­search into the en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­fects of agri­cul­tural prac­tices and helps farm­ers im­ple­ment proper en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment prac­tices.

The work he does now through his firm in­volves de­ter­min­ing the level of runoff on in­di­vid­ual farms and work­ing with farm­ers to limit their im­pact.

He said he com­piles the data he col­lects from dif­fer­ent farms and ar­ranges it into a chart, keep­ing each farm anony­mous. His goal is to get ev­ery farmer to ask what they can do bet­ter to show im­prove­ments on later charts.

Based on his ex­pe­ri­ence, Frame said it is clear that farm­ers care about pro­tect­ing water sys­tems be­cause it gets sent to their crops, their live­stock and their fam­i­lies. “We have to un­der­stand that agri­cul­ture is a pretty in­va­sive sys­tem,” he said. “We do tillage, we do plant­ing so there’s go­ing to be some loss.

“In my coun­try, if we say, ‘Do you want to eat?’ no one knows what that means be­cause we’ve al­ways had food avail­able, but in re­al­ity if we’re go­ing to grow food, we have to have an al­low­able level of loss, what­ever that num­ber is.”

We have to un­der­stand that agri­cul­ture is a pretty in­va­sive sys­tem.”

Den­nis Frame of Tim­ber Ridge Con­sult­ing

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