Happy Earth Day, everyone! Here in central Illinois it was a nice, warm day with a little bit of sun.
Most Illinois farmers were doing their normal Earth Day thing, working ground or even trying to get crops in the ground.
We often talk about farmers being the original conservationists — and that’s true — but on today’s farms, farmers are doing more than ever before to be good stewards of the land.
Essentially, they’re celebrating Earth Day every single day. And that task has been even easier this year with the help of nutrient stewardship grants made possible by the Illinois Farm Bureau.
Twenty-nine Illinois county Farm Bureaus were awarded grants under the first-ever Nutrient Stewardship Grant program. Illinois Farm Bureau awarded the grants – totaling more than $100,000 – to help promote local nutrient stewardship, soil health and water quality projects.
Sounds like Earth Day to me.
“We’re beyond talking about nutrient management and moving to actually help our members adopt and implement strategies and practices,” said Lauren Lurkins, director of environmental and natural resources, IFB. “We’re trying to move the needle, and these grants will help us do just that.”
Projects tackle nutrient issues relevant to local needs, soils, and farming practices, with the ultimate goal of achieving nutrient loss reduction goals under the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS).
Announced by the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in July 2015, the NLRS calls for a creation of an Agricultural Water Quality Partnership Forum to “steer outreach and education efforts to help farmers address nutrient loss.”
The plan tasks wastewater treatment plants, urban areas and agricultural areas with reducing the state’s phosphorous load by 25 percent and its nitrate-nitrogen load by 15 percent by 2025. These actions will assist in addressing water quality problems in Illinois rivers, lakes and streams. The eventual target is a 45 percent reduction in the loss of these nutrients to the Mississippi River.
The projects, which are happening this summer across the state, range from water testing and cover crop plots to saturated buffer construction and stream bank stabilization.
And farmers are doing more than just participating in the grant projects — they’re employing their own stewardship and best management practices on their own farms, independently.
Farmers rely on the land to support their families — and grow the food on which we all depend. If they don’t protect it, they’re the ones who lose.