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Penciling out conservation

Farmers are having a difficult time penciling out the economics of conservation.

Minnesota Corn Growers Association senior research director Paul Meints says first and foremost, agriculture is a business.

“So whatever practices we put on the landscape, and however we measure them, they have to work economically for that farmer to stay in business.”

He tells Brownfield there are many conservation practices farmers would like to implement, but few are economically viable.

“So part of what we’re working on in this kind of research is finding things that do work environmentally, but also allow that farmer to stay in a business practice.”

Meints says an example of that is grassing waterways and streambanks versus trees.

“Grasses are easy to maintain for that farmer. And things that would be controversial, like he burns it off every year, but that allows a stronger, fresh vegetation to protect that field going into the spring. That’s a lot easier to maintain on field-edge for him.”

While controversial, he says it’s better environmentally for the stream and better economically for the farmer.

Brownfield interviewed Meints at the Discovery Farms Summit in Minneapolis earlier this month.

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