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Farmers As Water Conservationists

October 1, 2013Patrick NunnallyRiversComments Off on Farmers As Water Conservationists

Dennis Anderson is the outdoors writer for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and therefore has a pretty big pulpit from which to convey his views.  After all, Minnesota is a state that voted extra taxes on itself in 2008 in part to preserve and enhance the legacies of clean water, fishing and hunting, parks and the arts.  Lots of people read Anderson’s work, and the “hook and bullet” audience is not always exactly coinciding in its views with urban environmentalists.  But that’s a whole other story.

Last Sunday, Anderson’s column profiled a farmer in southeastern Minnesota who has made water quality one of his primary concerns in farm management decisions.  The article is interesting in no small part because of the insight it sheds on the details of decision-making by someone who actually owns land and has to make decisions about how to balance the competing urgencies he faces.

Too often, the debates about water quality on the Mississippi are reduced to caricature: “farmers have to be made to comply with clean water rules because they won’t do it voluntarily” or “urban environmentalists have no idea what it takes to feed the world.”  The truth, as usual, lies uncomfortably somewhere between these easy positions.

Anderson says his piece is part of an ongoing effort to document the work of conservation-minded farmers.  I would like to second his call:  let me know of farmers or programs that are working to help farmers improve water quality.  Either send me an email or, better yet, write a comment to this post.  We’ll work to get the word out because clear thinking about concrete specific examples is one important way to get past the abstraction and generality of “farmer vs. environmentalist” where clean water is concerned.


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