If you cannot swim in your runoff, you can do better!

31 January 2012

An excellent analogy that is deserving of a post all to itself.   This comment comes from a press article about Lake Pepin (Mississippi River, USA) and may qualify for “2o12’s comment of the year” – if there was such a thing.

For those of us who worry about the future of Lake Pepin, Bruce Tiffany poses an important question: Why, he asks, should his fellow “upriver” farmers care about the troubles of Pepin?

Tiffany grows cash crops — corn and soybeans — on a 1,700-acre farm near Redwood Falls. As a conscientious land steward, he knows that some of the rain that falls on his farm makes its way to the Minnesota River and, ultimately, to the Mississippi River and Lake Pepin.

In designing his farm, Tiffany has taken sensible steps to manage runoff. In some instances, such as the width of perennial plantings along critical buffers, he has exceeded legal obligations.

Expressing his ethos to Minnesota Public Radio, Tiffany said, “If you wouldn’t do a breast stroke in your runoff, you can do better.”

That’s a laudable sentiment. If it were more widely acted upon, Lake Pepin would not be facing such a dire future.

So why should farmers care about Pepin? Aside from an altruistic recognition of its value, they should care because their future will be linked to the lake’s future.

As the science surrounding farm pollution grows, there will be inevitable pressure on farmers to employ best practices.

While the future of Pepin is important on its own merits, its health is also an indicator of larger concerns. After all, the same farm runoff that imperils Pepin contributes to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

Like Pepin, the Gulf has vocal advocates who will work the political process and demand change as a bad problem becomes worse.

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