Industry News
LICA National Winter Convention a successThis year’s LICA National Winter Convention was held in San Diego, California, and according to organizers, it was a complete success. The weather in San Diego was perfect for the event and LICA members were able to sightsee around the town on their own.  The pre-tours were extremely popular and fun was had by all. Members were amazed and informed while touring the USS Midway, a ship that has completed almost 50 years of service and seen combat in Vietnam and the first Persian Gulf War.  At the San Diego Zoo, people could see all the animals by foot, bus or even air! The Skyfari aerial tram was definitely a new way to see a zoo and there were more than 4,000 rare and endangered species at this zoo for all to see. For the third year in a row, LICA members were able to test their racing skills at the Miramar Speed Circuit. The track featured three hairpin turns, two straight-aways and a longer course that put the participants through their paces. The competition was fierce. Chris Smidler of Indiana finished in first place, Bob Clark of Indiana in second place, and Tony den Hoed from Volvo in third place. The inaugural LICA golf outing was touched with perfect weather and took place at the nearby Riverwalk Golf Club. The awards included longest putt, won by Chris Wagner, longest drive, won by Mark Morriem, shortest drive, won by Bruce Mosier, and closest to the pin, won by Steve Miller. In first place among foursomes were John Weatherhead, Buddy Goodman, Bob Clark and Tony den Hoed. Second place went to Chris Wagner, John Rothberg, Shelly Hewson and Joe Giovinazzo. Third place went to Steve Miller, Mark Morriem and Fran Miller. The profits raised from this event were given to the LICA Scholarship Fund. All of the educational seminars were well received; members learned about national LICA benefits, fleet safety and security, 10 critical business insurance mistakes to avoid, and negligent entrustment and non-owned auto exposures from some very well-spoken and respected speakers.  The committee meetings and executive meetings were very productive and everyone shared their important thoughts and ideas.  At the Hawaiian-themed Associates’ Night there were more than 20 exhibitors and people packed the room in leis and grass skirts! Make sure you check out for the pictures.Before everyone said goodbye they attended the Caterpillar Awards Dinner, where Brad McArdle was presented with the 2011 Contractor of the year award. Harry Hauschild won the 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year award. The Minnesota Chapter of LICA won the 2011 Top State award, which Nordis Estrem and Kevin Bakken, Mark Morriem and Don Loken accepted. Veronica Seevers won the 2011 Contractor’s Wife of the Year award. The Ohio Chapter 2011 Kemps Award went to Louis McFarland and the 2011 Handor Award went to Wayne Litwiller. After the awards and dinner, the group was entertained by comedian Brad Upton, who had members laughing from beginning to end.  It was an incredible convention that will not soon be forgotten!  Study: Can crop residues clean up drained water?The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI), an organization committed to providing scientific and technical assistance to Minnesota industries and entrepreneurs, is conducting a 15-month study testing the ability of crop residues to clean up water drained from agricultural lands.AURI’s study is focused on bioreactors, also known as biofilters, which have historically been made from wood chips or straw. The high cost of these products encouraged AURI to research other available materials producers could use. AURI is evaluating and comparing the effectiveness of agricultural residues versus wood in bioreactors, offering a potential use for agricultural byproducts such as corn stover, and wheat and barley straw. These fibers could also increase bioreactor efficiency, improve drainage water quality and potentially increase the number of acres that a single reactor can treat. Bioreactors can reduce nitrate concentration in drainage water by 30 to 70 percent. The project is occurring at the USDA-ARS lab in St. Paul, Minn., the results will determine which products have the potential to warrant in-field testing.Réal Laflamme joins Soleno board of directorsSoleno welcomes the appointment of Réal Laflamme, a veritable legend of the agricultural field in Quebec, to its board of directors.Born in Sainte-Rosalie, Laflamme comes from a long line of farmers. Early in his life, he was fascinated by agriculture and demonstrated his talent for managing a company. In 1968, he bought his father’s 32-hectare farm, which included 17 dairy cows. Today, the family business, called “La Ferme Roflamme,” cultivates 1,000 hectares and has a herd of 90 dairy cows.In 1981, at age 34, Laflamme became one of the youngest recipients of the Gold Medal of Agricultural Merit. In 1992, along with other shareholders, he bought a poultry farm in limited partnership. As a result of the success of this formula, several other acquisitions of the same type were made. In 2001, he was the first recipient of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Agriculture Sector, with La Presse, TVA and Global as national sponsors.A great visionary, Laflamme has been involved in numerous other endeavors and many other accomplishments throughout his career, mainly related to agriculture. He is considered a role model in the business world and a very successful farmer. We are very pleased to count on the expertise of such an exemplary man.Mark Baker receives Technical Service Provider CertificationMark Baker has recently become a Registered Technical Service Provider with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is able to provide Drainage Water Management Plans. With his certification, Baker will become one of 52 Technical Service Providers in the United States.Baker is a veteran of the drainage industry with over 30 years’ experience and a tremendous reputation for customer service and business excellence. Completing the Technical Service Provider training has been an official step for him to assist producers in using conservation practices on their land by developing Drainage Water Management Plans.A Technical Service Provider can determine the best way to implement a Drainage Water Management Plan by reviewing field boundaries, soil types, tile maps, and topographic maps of a field area. Springfield Plastics, Inc. is proud to have Baker as a Technical Service Provider within its business to assist producers.  The USDA and NRCS are building the amount of certified professionals in private businesses, non-profit organizations and public agencies that are able to provide technical service for such conservation practices as drainage water management because the public’s interest and the government’s funding of conservation are increasing. The USDA needs qualified individuals to help with implementing conservation practices and assisting producers in developing plans for such practices.
Summer means different things to different people but for drainage contractors, it is a call for two things: get the equipment ready for the busy fall season, but before that, head to the fields for a nearby field day. For a group of Iowa contractors, that field day took place July 27 at the Midwest Construction Expo and Field Day, near Melbourne. “We have a lot of success stories we can share when it comes to conservation and water quality in Iowa,” said Chuck Gipp, the new deputy director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Many of the success stories to which he referred include waterways and tiling, as well as terraces, and all were showcased at the 80-acre field day site. The day’s events were sponsored by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Marshall County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Iowa Land Improvement Contractors’ Association. Gaining support from cities and stateMore than just contractors and farmers were attracted to the field day. Since Melbourne is so close to Des Moines, the event provided an excellent opportunity to showcase best management practices to both urbanites and state lawmakers. “This field day shows how farmers and contractors are true conservationists who are making great strides as they integrate new technology to save Iowa’s soil and protect water quality,” said state representative Annette Sweeney. Among some of the displays visited by attendees were a rain garden constructed by LICA members and grass waterways, which can help manage rainwater flow from farmers’ fields and reduce or prevent erosion. The site was also the place for the unveiling of a new tool for contractors. Known as Nancy’s Blanket, the design consists of two sheets of biodegradable plastic mesh with straw sandwiched between. The blanket can cover a newly installed and seeded waterway, to give the construct a good start and minimize erosion. “Often the seed is washed away by the first rain that falls after the waterway is built, and the wind can blow away the straw mulch that some contractors spread over the new waterway,” explained Scott Hamman, whose family created Nancy’s Blankets. The concept has been in use in Ohio since 2005, and it is now being distributed in Iowa by Plunkett Farms from Maxwell. “The field day is a great opportunity to learn about the newest ways to help preserve our soil and natural resources,” said Keith Rohwer, who manages Dry Run Farm Drainage, and also grows corn, soybeans and raises hogs and horses near Paullina.Additional researchOne other facet that was covered at the field day dealt with the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program wetland on the site, something that contractors built in 2009. The CREP initiative has been developed – with the help of both state and federal governments – in an effort reduce the nitrate levels in water coming from tile drains on farmland. Research from Iowa State University has confirmed that CREP wetlands are capable of removing 40 to 90 percent of nitrates from tile drainage water. The research indicates more than 90 percent of herbicides are also removed. At the time of the field day in July 2011, the state of Iowa had about 80 CREP wetlands.In addition to wetlands, other conservation measures, including grass waterways, filter strips and reduced tillage, can make a significant difference. Individuals such as Chuck Gipp see these efforts as a huge step, and believe voluntary moves, not regulated ones, are the better way.
In response to the 2011 growing season’s overwhelming demand for agricultural drainage products, Willmar, Minnesota-based Prinsco Inc. has announced its plans to open a new manufacturing plant in the Fargo-Moorehead area of Minnesota. The company plans to have the plant operational in January 2012, with two production lines and plans for a third by the end of that year. These additions, along with upgrades at other facilities, mean a vast increase in single-wall tile production.All signs point to an increase in demand, according to company representatives. “2011 is shaping up to be a remarkable year, coming right on the heels of 2010’s record-breaking season. I could not have predicted this kind of sustained growth,” says Kent Rodelius, sales manager for Prinsco Agriculture. “Prinsco has done everything possible to expand our infrastructure and make the investments needed to meet this additional demand as quickly as possible.”The Fargo-Moorehead plant is Prinsco’s second new manufacturing facility in 12 months. In February of 2011, they started operations at their new Beresford, South Dakota, plant, which is also slated to add a third production line by October of this year. Prinsco has completed key upgrades that will improve efficiency at all of its Midwestern plants. “There are always growing pains when you expand quickly, but we are committed to meeting the needs of our loyal customers. As they embrace the benefits of strategic water management, we want to continue being their provider of choice. For that reason, our approach to growth has been cautious and strategic, yet aggressive,” adds Jeremy Duininck, Prinsco’s vice president of operations. “Our investments are focused, not only on facilities and equipment, but on the staff support needed for quality control, safety and efficiency. We need to grow without sacrificing the high standards and values that are important to us.”“This is an exciting time,” comments Jamie Duininck, Prinsco’s vice president of sales. “As we’ve been expanding our facilities, we’ve also been expanding our product line. Most recently we introduced Ecoflo 100, an industry first. It’s a recycled, dual-wall pipe with an unprecedented 100-year service life. It’s a green-friendly product that will help farmers increase the performance of their critical drainage mains, and also help engineers and contractors feel comfortable using eco-friendly pipe in the commercial storm water and detention projects. We’re really growing right now, in more ways than one.”
It may have taken place in 2010, but the grand opening of a tile manufacturing plant was a newsworthy event because it served to bring together 17 companies for an open house and tiling demonstration. Hancor/Advanced Drainage Systems opened its plant near the town of Heidelberg, northwest of Kitchener, Ontario, with a tiling demonstration and field day down the road at the farm of Oscar Wideman. Among those exhibitinag on site were the Land Improvement Contractors of Ontario, A&E Farm Drainage, Wolfe Equipment, Agri Drain Corp., Advanced Geo Positioning Solutions and Geo Shack Canada. Contractors from across Ontario attended the event, with some commenting that it was the first such gathering in at least 10 years, maybe longer.
Every year, Agrodrain Systems Ltd. installs hundreds of miles of drainage pipe on thousands of acres of farmland in eastern Ontario and western Quebec. In one pass, Agrodrain’s plow – automatically controlled by a Leica PowerGrade 3D system – cuts a slot and knifes drainage pipe to a precise elevation in the ground. “In some jobs using laser controls, our man would spend a third of his time moving the laser transmitter around,” says John Wielgut, president of Agrodrain. “Now, with our Leica GPS system, the drainage plow can keep moving. This system is far more productive.”The Leica PowerGrade 3D system automatically controls the plow depth, but does not steer the tractor that pulls the plow. A display monitor in the tractor’s cab indicates the unit’s position relative to the designed track line, so the operator steers the machine using that. “We generally can place pipe within one-quarter inch of design grade,” says Wielgut. “We do a lot of our drainage at minimum grades, which for us is one-tenth of one percent, or one foot of drop in 1000 feet. That’s why vertical accuracy is very important.” Wielgut has run the Leica PowerGrade 3D system for Agrodrain since late 2009. “The overriding observation that I have is, it is so darn dependable,” he says. “We had a small issue with one cable one day last spring (2010) that we resolved, and we have not had a minute’s breakdown since then. It is a very, very dependable system and is much more efficient than a laser system.” Wielgut says he finds the GPS system has fewer performance issues than a laser. His laser system was adversely affected by the distance of the machine from the transmitter, by fog, and by the wind, because the transmitter had to be mounted high in the air. Based in Heerbrugg, Switzerland, Leica Geosystems is a global company with tens of thousands of customers supported by more than 3500 employees in 28 countries, and hundreds of partners located throughout more than 120 countries around the world.
Change is in the air for Steenbergen Hollanddrain B.V., a key player in the worldwide drainage machinery industry. The company specializes in design, manufacturing, marketing and sales of a wide range of heavy-duty drainage, de-watering and trenching machines. Plows, gravel trailers and flushing machines, as well as spare parts complete its extensive product range. Even parts of Barth Holland machines, acquired by Hollanddrain in 1986, are still placed in stock. Customers of Hollanddrain have their core business in a variety of industries, including agricultural, irrigation, recreational, utility, construction and adjacent sectors.Now, the anchor man of Holland-drain, Willem de Waard, who worked for more than 45 years for the company, will reluctantly retire, and hand over commercial responsibilities to William Smeekes. Hollanddrain management is grateful for everything de Waard has achieved on behalf of the company. Smeekes, who is the marketing and sales director, has been appointed to lead Hollanddrain to worldwide growth. “We have set clear objectives; not only in the US, but particularly upcoming markets where we see great potential in the near future.” says Smeekes, who will be responsible for managing the global commercial activities of the complete product range in all market segments. “We’ve always paid high attention to customer satisfaction and will continue to do that. In fact, the machine owner has two main questions before he decides to buy,” explains Smeekes. “Will it do the job and will it earn money? Hollanddrain assures a very favorable total cost of ownership due to low operating cost and durable design. A long-term value which belongs to a long-term relationship; that is as essential as having direct customer contact.” Although Hollanddrain will appoint new distributors in target markets, they will continue to support the end users directly. Hollanddrain’s strength is based on the fact that all of the company’s personnel know the marketplace from first-hand experience and expertise, resulting in putting the right machine at the right place, and above all, providing value for the money from the customer’s point of view. “In addition, the aim is to provide a substantial contribution to a wealthy world with respect for the environment, which is unavoidable,” says Smeekes.Service goes beyond the ordinaryHollanddrain has its focus on corporate social responsibility, which is part of its business philosophy. The process from production to delivery will be carried out with the utmost respect for the environment. “Aspects such as engine emissions, fuel consumption, used materials and production methodology have high attention,” assures Smeekes. The machines operate under sometimes extreme circumstances and meet the highest safety requirements for operators, inside and outside the machine. In 2010, Stephan Reedijk was appointed as technical director. All operational and technical activities will be managed by Reedijk and his team of qualified engineers, production workers, after-sales and service people. Reedijk states that the engineers are experts in hydraulics and mechanical engineering, particularly as related to crawler systems and digging-chain drive systems. Hollanddrain machines are designed to be used in extreme subsurface conditions up to eight meters, and possibly more, in different types of soil, and with greater ease.Operators come to rely on the equipment they are using. “With ours, they can,” says Reedijk. Recent market research indicates that in the past 60 years Hollanddrain machines have become known for having key features rated by operators as most important. Quality, reliability, efficiency, noise level and ease of operation are the qualities most often mentioned. “Of course we are proud of that,” says Reedijk. Thanks to these qualifications, Hollanddrain is in many countries the leader in providing the right solution for the work to be done in a quick and reliable way, using advanced design and manufacturing technologies.” Continuous improvement of efficiency, just-in-time supply of A-branded components and Hollanddrain’s accurate quality control provide competitive benefits. “Hollanddrain does not produce a machine: we specifically build one.”Within its product range philosophy, Hollanddrain has a two-directional focus: producing standard machines but also continuing to build to a customer’s specific needs. “Every situation is different, so we always listen to customers’ preferences and fulfil their demand,” assures Reedijk. The Hollanddrain line of products is  sold globally, thanks to the worldwide network of a dedicated and experienced sales force and dealers. As with any expanding enterprise, Hollanddrain is always looking for capable distributors. If you are interested in representing Hollanddrain, you can request a dealer inquiry form through e-mail, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . For more information about the company and products, visit the website
For the family, customers and employees who participated in the barbecue fundraiser held by RWF BRON and Paul Pullins Enterprises, nothing stood out quite like the large, 550 BRON Drainage Plow sitting at the center of the festivities. The event took place Saturday, April 30, 2011, at BRON’s plant in Woodstock, Ontario, and featured the company’s newest machine. However, it was not the 550 horsepower that caught everyone’s attention; it was the color. When the Pullins family ordered its newest BRON Drainage Plow, they added one request: paint it pink.For Paul Pullins and his family, installing agricultural drainage tile is their business and they rely on these massive machines to get the job done. However, Paul’s work, in particular, was never far from his family life either. So when a family friend of Pullins’ was diagnosed with breast cancer, the fight against the disease became personal. The new pink BRON 550 Drainage Plow is one way that the Pullins family believed they could bring awareness to the challenges of battling breast cancer. And it already has. Paul Pullins Enterprises is based in Quincy, Ohio where the new pink plow will be working regularly. However before shipping it out, RWF BRON wanted to support their customer’s breast cancer awareness campaign by first canvassing their employees and family members, and then holding a fundraising barbecue. More than 250 attended the festive event, enjoying grilled hamburgers and hotdogs and taking their best shot at soaking dunk tank participants.Deemed a great success, the event raised more than $ 6000, with additional donations still to come. Proceeds were evenly split between the Breast Cancer Society of Canada and the Stephanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research based at the Ohio State University.After discovering a lemon-sized lump during a breast self-exam, Stephanie Spielman was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 30. She and her husband, Chris, a former NFL player, began to speak publicly about the disease. In November 2009, after 10 years of battling cancer, Stephanie finished fighting but left a legacy that has inspired thousands to continue on.Since 1999, more than $8.5 million has been raised on Stephanie’s behalf for breast cancer patients and research at the Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.Together, RWF BRON and the Pullins family were proud to support the fight against breast cancer. For Paul and his family, they hope their new pink 550 BRON drainage plow serves as a giant reminder that everyone can be part of the cure for breast cancer.A special thank-you goes out to all drainage contractors that attended and donated to a great cause. The fundraiser promoted awareness of breast cancer as well as farm drainage.For more information on the Stephanie Spielman Fund, please visit more information on the Breast Cancer Society of Canada, please visit
Three years can seem like a long time, or it can seem as though it is speeding past in a heartbeat. In 2007, David Lapen and Mark Sunohara began monitoring the effects of controlled-tile drainage along a set of tributaries of the South Nation River in Ontario’s Ottawa Valley. Lapen, the scientific lead, and Sunohara, the project manager for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s South Nation Watershed Evaluation of Beneficial Management Practices (WEBs), were setting out to study agricultural best management practices (BMPs) and their effectiveness in improving surface water quality at watershed scales. Although quick to point out that the concept behind such research has been studied extensively in the US and Canada, Sunohara notes that few have taken such a project to a considerably larger watershed scale, or roughly 1000 acres.Lapen and Sunohara’s work first attracted the attention of Drainage Contractor, among others, in 2007, with an introduction to the WEBs project. At that point, they had engaged growers along two parallel municipal drains, both within the South Nation River watershed. Originally, they were looking for land bases with similar soil-type and cross-cutting land use (most were dairy farms, with crop rotations of corn, soybeans and forage). “We took one of the drains and installed control structures on all of the tile outlets where we obtained landowner co-operation,” explains Sunohara. That process of finding co-operators, and planning and installing the control structures took the better part of three years. “It took us a few years because we picked these spots based on their suitability for controlled-tile drainage; very flat, decent soils, tile drained, and we had to demonstrate to the growers the value and utility of controlled-tile drainage.”Thus producer co-operation and practice adoption was a gradual process.Three years later in 2010, their efforts of monitoring the watershed are beginning to show some effects. “We’ve been seeing some benefits, both environmentally and economically. Economically, we’ve seen some moderate increases in yields in crops, so the farmers are benefiting from the controlled-tile drainage that way, increasing yields with the same amount of inputs,” says Sunohara. “Environmentally speaking, we’ve seen at least 50 percent nutrient load reductions, and looking at nitrogen, the total mass load of nitrogen being exported from the field, we’ve seen reductions of at least 50 percent, compared to uncontrolled drainage.”Sunohara also notes that the research team is finding that if controlled-tile drainage is exercised broadly in the South Nation River basin, significant net reductions in nutrients are predicted to occur where the South Nation River empties into the Ottawa River.Going forwardIn spite of the benefits of tile drainage and controlled-tile drainage, and with the gathering of data to substantiate those stated benefits at watershed scales, the job is to the contractor to convince a farmer or a landowner of the value of such an investment. That is why Sunohara is pleased to see that the kind of BMP work that they are doing is yielding some welcome validation and support from government sources. “In part, because of this project and the work we’ve been doing, controlled-tile drainage is now included in the Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program (COFSP) and South Nation Conservation Clean Water Program,” says Sunohara, adding that the COFSP program provides a cost-share format worth 30 percent, up to $15,000 for a control structure installation. This is a new and important addition that has come in the past two years, part of a lobbying effort of WEBs, to evaluate and promote BMPs. “What we’ve come up with is that this is a pretty decent type of BMP; it’s low-cost, flexible regarding management of water table, retrofit, easy-to-install, and on a new installation, it’s easy to design into it. The province of Ontario and the federal government have taken that and included it (in their stewardship program).”On a more local level, the research that Sunohara has conducted and the data he has gathered thus far, have helped convince the South Nation Conservation Authority (a partner in the project) to include it in its Clean Water program, including a cost-share component to provide 50 percent up to $1000 for control structure installation.Just as important, Sunohara reports that many contractors are doing their part in spreading the message about controlled-tile drainage, acting as advocates in dealings with farmers and landowners, based in part on his research findings to date. “They’re informing the farmers or advising them on the utility of controlled-tile drainage, telling them ‘it’s only a small additional cost to the installation,’” details Sunohara. “Five years ago, adding controlled drainage and controlling the water leaving the field at a critical time wouldn’t be something on their minds.”And further into the futureThe next phase for Sunohara includes continued monitoring and an expansion of the data that can or could be retrieved from this project. “Because it’s on such a large watershed scale, and because of weather variability, we can’t really come up with concrete answers in a short amount of time. So long-term monitoring and benchmarking are the keys to be able to provide definitive answers” says Sunohara, adding that the effects of this practice at watershed scales will differ from those at plot scales. “We are also looking at bacteria and other agricultural drainage constituents, so we’ve been working with dairy farmers in our watershed, where they apply manure in spring and fall, comparing controlled and uncontrolled field situations.”Another interesting expansion of this research that Lapen and Sunohara would like to see, is moving this work to regions where topography has a greater influence on installing tile and controlled-tile drainage. Sunohara concedes that their work has been done on relatively flat land, where controlled-tile drainage will work effectively on the whole field. “On a sloping field, you’d have to install tiers of control structures in your drainage system to manage the whole field effectively. So let’s evaluate controlled-tile drainage on less appropriate areas, or areas that need a bit more of a design factor involved,” explains Sunohara. “I know that Agri Drain (manufacturers of control structures) have been working on this tiered system and it’s totally subterranean, so that farmers don’t have to worry about control structures in the middle of their field. We hope to explore these systems in the context of the WEBs project.”Most of all, Sunohara wants contractors to understand that their project is continuing, that more data is being farmed from the yields, and the testing parameters (namely, the export of nutrient resources from the fields) are being expanded to bring greater value from controlled-tile drainage. For further reading and reference:South Nation Conservation’s Clean Water Program: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada WEBs project Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program (COFSP) (Controlled Tile Drainage is Practice Code 1804)
Let me ask you something: Can a person be an advocate for an industry, yet remain impartial and balanced? There are those who contend that a person can be one or the other, but not both. As a farm writer, I have been told that I’m “too close” to agriculture to offer up a balanced viewpoint of the agri-food industry. My counter to that is that sports writers and entertainment reporters can be knowledgeable advocates of their chosen realm yet capable of presenting the relevant facts of a story, usually over and above their personal beliefs on a topic. That is why I believe an advocate can provide balance and impartiality; it is what I have worked for throughout my career. And I frequently speak out on behalf of farmers and agriculture. Do I stand behind those who secretively apply herbicides in organic farming or dump livestock waste in the darkness of night? No, and I never will. Advocacy in this instance is a strength, not a weakness, and it is a reflection of the vast majority of those involved who conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism and accountability.Like you.Struck by a chordThis line of thinking came to mind a few weeks ago, after reading a story from a US-based clipping service. It points to tile drainage as the most significant contributor to nitrate loss along the Mississippi River and cites it as the largest contributor to an annual dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, one that covered an area of more than 7000 square miles in 2010.I shared that story with two people, one of whom replied that agronomic practices in the US differ sufficiently from those in Canada that such an occurrence is unlikely. However, Sid Vander Veen of Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs was also quick to pick up on one recommendation in the story –that it might be best to “encourag[e] farmers to apply the right amount of N in the spring rather than the fall . . .”In my books, that line contradicts another from the University of Illinois researcher who conducted the study and stated that “farmers are not to blame” for this nitrate loss. Instead, it is tile drainage, along with intensive corn and soybean rotations, a lack of topography and ineffective timing of fertilizer applications that combine to share most of the blame.I am the first to admit that I don’t understand all there is to know about drainage; in this industry, I am what some people are likely to call “a work in progress.” However, citing tile drainage as the primary culprit in nitrate loss along the Mississippi is akin to blaming pavers for a new stretch of highway that becomes slippery when wet. Don’t drivers bear any responsibility for easing up on the gas pedal during those rainy times? By the same token, don’t farmers bear some responsibility for using too much fertilizer, or perhaps at the wrong time of year? I do know enough about drainage to say it increases land values and, when used properly, does not contribute to pollution anymore than properly applied manure.If we don’t do it, who will?It is fair to say that most of us are so busy dealing with the here and now, that we have little time for hearsay and “Now thens!” Yet each person in this industry has a stake in it, and should be willing to take a stand when confronted with an issue that may only tell part of a story, effectively omitting key pieces that provide “the whole picture.” This is what it is to be an advocate: someone who is passionate about a subject, willing to learn more to support its industry, yet unwilling to let that passion cloud any accurate reflection. And I am not saying that the research or the person performing it in this case is flawed in any way (as I said before, I’m still a novice in this industry). But as is the case in agriculture, where only dribs and drabs of information make it through the filter of the media and consumer misinformation, people are ill informed when it comes to finding accuracy and accountability where drainage is concerned. Yes, it takes time and effort to undo the damage done by those who provide only part of the story. Yet we can’t be afraid to light a candle and shed some much-needed illumination on these kinds of situations. And see me if you need some matches; I’ll always keep the fire burning.
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