By: Steve Coleman
During my career with the Kentucky Division of Conservation it was gratifying to see how our agriculture community responded to ever growing environmental challenges. I watched Kentucky farmers adapt and make great strides in implementing practices that limit soil erosion and improve water quality. I also had the honor of being involved in the development and implementation of our historic Agriculture Water Quality Act.
Farm organizations and agencies have been supportive all along the way over the years, and most have implemented some type of program to encourage cooperative leadership on environmental issues, particularly in regards to water quality issues. Kentucky also has a wide range of resources to help farmers meet these challenges.
Each year a good number of our farmers utilize federal, state and local technical and financial assistance programs to put in place conservation practices that protect soil, water, and air quality resources. The recommended “best management practices” include such steps as maintaining vegetative covers and buffer strips that control soil erosion or install stack pads for handling livestock waste. There are dozens of other BMPs that enable producers to be good stewards of our resources.
Kentucky is among the top states in spending on conservation programs, as well as in the use of conservation tillage practices. Our agricultural water quality law, adopted in 1994, has long been regarded as a model for other states to follow. Under the Kentucky Soil Erosion and Water Quality Cost Share program, more than 13,500 Kentucky farmers have upgraded operations to ensure that their production practices do not impair waterways. The state cost share program has been invaluable to Kentucky in leveraging additional federal, state, local and private conservation program funds to assist in protecting out valuable resources.
Safeguarding land and water isn’t an easy job, but it’s something that farmers cannot, and will not, neglect. And thanks to their efforts, we all benefit from a better place to live.
Presently I have the privilege of chairing Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Water Management Working Group. This 20-member group is charged with developing recommendations for enhancing water resources in Kentucky. This is no small task, and no trivial undertaking. Not only for farmers, but rural communities as well and requires us all to work together to find the solutions.
After four meetings we have identified goals, obtained a wealth of information on available resources and have formed our first subcommittee to work on improving Kentucky’s State Drought Mitigation Plan and its response to agricultural drought issues, which is badly needed.
I look forward to learning more and working with these working group members to continue our efforts to assist farmers on natural resource issues.