OPINION

Letter to the editor: LASA shows environmental changes

Jim Winn
Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance

As a dairy farmer in Lafayette County, I take our soil health and water quality seriously. I am honored to be the president of the Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance, a farmer-led watershed conservation group that started in 2017. Our nonprofit group has grown to 27 livestock and crop farmers who represent 47,000 acres and 23,000 dairy animals, beef cattle and pigs.

Jim Winn

As we all celebrate Earth Day, I find it rewarding to lead a group of well-rounded and diverse members who are thinking beyond just their own bottom line. They are taking innovative action to protect the environment for their neighbors while also learning how to do so in a way that is financially sustainable.

We owe much of our success to organizations and agencies that assist us in our mission, including the Department of Natural Resources and UW-Madison Discovery Farms at the state level and the Natural Resources Conservation Service on the federal level. Of particular importance is the opportunity to partner with The Nature Conservancy, a global organization, as well as other local businesses.

Since the beginning, we have made significant progress each year. Our main priority has been water quality. Over the past couple of years, we have been part of helped pay for the Southwest Wisconsin Groundwater and Geology study, also known as SWIGG, to test hundreds of wells in a three-county area in southwestern Wisconsin. Scientific research by the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, UW-Madison and TNC shows that our members are significantly reducing the chances of harmful runoff into streams and lakes. Data shows, for example, that the farmers using reduced tillage potentially are reducing phosphorus runoff by 53 percent and soil erosion by 59 percent.

As a group, we formed around the idea that Lafayette County can be a community where farmers and friends of agriculture work together to protect and improve our water quality and environment. We are making incredible progress and remain as committed as ever to this vision, on Earth Day and every day.

Jim Winn is a dairy farmer in Lafayette County, Wis., and president of Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance, a farmer-led watershed conservation group.