Letter to the editor written by Don Niles, a dairy farmer in Kewaunee County, Wis., and president of Peninsula Pride Farms, a farmer-led watershed conservation group.
Clean water, thriving agriculture is achievable
As we all celebrate Earth Day, I am honored to be president of Peninsula Pride Farms, a farmer-led watershed conservation group in Kewaunee and southern Door counties that began in 2016. Our nonprofit group has grown to 43 livestock and crop farmers who represent 63,038 acres and 67,276 dairy animals and beef cattle.
As a group, we recognize the significant impact our farms can have on our local surface and groundwater. Being a farmer-led group means we are farmers leading farmers. Who better to challenge and encourage farmers to achieve higher environmental standards than other farmers?
We also owe much of our success to organizations and agencies that assist us in our mission, including the Department of Natural Resources and UW-Madison Discovery Farms at the state level and the Natural Resources Conservation Service on the federal level. Of particular importance is the opportunity to partner with The Nature Conservancy, a global organization, as well as other local businesses.
All this work and collaboration has brought success. After only three years, in 2019, the most recent year for data, our members were using conservation tillage practices on 18,967 acres, had planted 10,124 acres of cover crops, and had implemented low-disturbance manure application on 6,089 acres.
Scientific research by the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, UW-Madison, and The Nature Conservancy show that our members are significantly reducing the chances of harmful runoff into streams and lakes. Data shows, for example, that the farmers using reduced tillage potentially are reducing phosphorus runoff by 50 percent and soil erosion by 60 percent.
As a group, we formed around the idea that the Door Peninsula could have clean, safe water, along with a thriving agricultural community. We are making incredible progress and remain as committed as ever to this vision, on Earth Day and every day.