Austin farmer testifies at hearing on soil health

Building healthy soil on agricultural acres doesn’t just benefit rural communities, said a southern Minnesota farmer during a special Congressional hearing on soil health held in Washington Wednesday.

According to a press release from the Land Stewardship Project, Austin area farmer Jon Jovaag spoke about that subject during the hearing organized by U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, DFL-Minnesota, as a result of on-farm meetings that were held in 2017 with Jovaag and other members of the Land Stewardship Projects.

Jovaag was pressing that the next Farm Bill needs to encourage and support farming systems that can build the biology of crop fields and pastures.

“Soil health impacts everyone, both rural and urban,” said Jovaag, who is a member of the Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project (LSP).

He said one of the most exciting benefits of increased soil health is that it allows the land to better manage water, an important issue for him since a mile of his family’s farm borders the Cedar River.

“I have seen firsthand what poor soil health and management can do,” he said. “But if we can increase our soil organic matter by 1 percent, that soil can hold an additional 1 inch of water. That saves farmland, crops, urban housing and taxes.”

During the 2017 meetings, farmers made it clear that economically viable innovations in cover cropping, managed rotational grazing, diverse crop rotations and no-till production have made it possible to build soils that are able to manage water well while sequestering greenhouse gases.

Jon Jovaag testifying at Congressional hearing on soil health. Photo provided

However, in order for such practices to become more prevalent, federal programs need to provide increased technical and financial assistance to farmers. The Congressional hearing, which, along with the LSP, was presented by the Soil Health Institute, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and General Mills, comes at a time when Congressional agriculture leaders are drafting the 2018 Farm Bill.

Jovaag has used USDA initiatives such as the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to establish practices that get more cover on his land 365-days-a-year. The result has been less soil and fewer nutrients escaping his acres and making their way into the Cedar River. Jovaag said healthier soil is also helping his farm rely less on expensive chemical inputs, which is a financial benefit.

“But every farm has different goals, rotations and environments, so there is a learning curve,” he said. “Every time you make changes to your operation you add risk. We all have to make a living.”

During the past few years, Jovaag and other farmers in Minnesota have been participating in the Land Stewardship Project’s Soil Builders’ Network, which provides a chance for crop and livestock producers to share information on the latest innovations in building soil health.

It’s become clear that government cost-share funds, technical assistance and research play key roles in helping farmers adopt new soil smart practices that are financially viable.

“This is where federal policy that recognizes the benefits healthy soil provides rural and urban communities is key,” said Jovaag. “Everyone will benefit.”

The Minnesota based Land Stewardship Project is a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1982 to foster an ethic of stewardship for farmland, to promote sustainable agriculture and to develop healthy communities.

Mower County

Historical Society featuring a history of the rail

Education

Minnesota State recognizes leaders with emeritus status including former RCC president

Crime, Courts & Emergencies

South Dakota man injured in crash on I-90 Tuesday night

Mower County

Training programs a big step toward filling a need for water, wastewater operators

Mower County

Daunting task lays ahead for City’s 2025 budget, operating levy

Mower County

Chop, Oman to now be tried separately in drive-by shooting case

Mower County

Mueller looking forward to building on county successes

Agriculture

Register for the Agriculture and Food Science Exploration (AFSE) Day

Mower County

In Your Community: County employees honored for completion of leadership training

Mower County

In Your Community: Joseph Company donates to Cedar Valley Services

Austin Living

On her own terms: Breanna Bortner tells her story of cancer bravely, beautifully

Brownsdale

In Your Community: Brownsdale Study Club

Education

Education Briefs: Accolades

News

Robots with hoes show farmers possible future of weed control

News

Wellness programs aim to support police officers through stressful work

News

Tobacco-like warning label for social media sought by US surgeon general who asks Congress to act

News

Deadly ATV crashes on pace to surpass last year’s total

Business

Expanding Opportunity: Austin Ford Chrysler breaks ground on addition, renovation

Mower County

Volunteers are needed for the statewide bumble bee survey

Crime, Courts & Emergencies

Convictions June 3-10

Mower County

MnDOT asks motorists, riders to safely share the road during motorcycle convention in Rochester

Mower County

City of Austin to spray for mosquitoes

Mower County

Ikes to host steak cookout

Education

Education: Accolades