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New WI report provides snapshot of sustainable farming efforts

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Greenhouse gas emissions have been potentially reduced by 50,000 tons in the state, with the help of Wisconsin farmers supported by a statewide coalition.

Farmers for Sustainable Food has released its first progress report, which summarizes efforts and data from last year. The coalition consists of six farmer-led conservation groups across Wisconsin and works with 231 farmers.

The report also showed participating farmers reduced more than 330,000 pounds of phosphorus from leaving their fields.

Lauren Brey, managing director of Farmers for Sustainable Food, said while there are popular practices, such as cover crops, there's a desire to experiment as well.

"That might be different methods of manure application and incorporation into the land," Brey suggested. "How do we try different mixes of cover crops?"

Despite increased awareness of climate-friendly practices in agriculture, supporters acknowledge there is still work to do in convincing farmers who are concerned about their bottom line. Wisconsin's Farmland Preservation Program noted it saw participation decline by 24% between 2010 and 2017.

Brey pointed out if partners boost engagement efforts, it could entice more farmers to embrace the conservation movement.

"Trying to model what impact those practices are having on different sustainability metrics," Brey advised. "Carbon or greenhouse gas emissions or water quality. And we're taking that a step further in our sustainability projects even with an addition of a financial analysis component."

Farmers who responded to a 2018 landowner survey cited a burdensome application process, as well as limited tax credits for not signing a farmland agreement.

Mike Moen is the Morning Edition producer and serves as a staff reporter for WNIJ. Every morning, he works with Dan Klefstad to bring listeners the latest Illinois news. He also works with the rest of the news staff on developing and producing in-depth stories. Mike is a Minnesota native who likes movies, history, and baseball. When most people hear his last name, they assume he is 100-percent Scandinavian. But, believe it or not, he is mostly German.
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