Trey Lam Says Conservation Practices are Paying Off for Oklahoma Farmers and RanchersSun, 15 May 2016 17:38:55 CDT
Oklahoma continues to rank in the top five when it comes to improving the quality of the state’s water, and Trey Lam, executive director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, says it is a testament to the work agricultural producers are doing to conserve natural resources.
Lam says when the Nonpoint Source Pollution Program was first established in Oklahoma, officials decided to monitor the streams near the epicenters of agricultural activity across the state to determine the industry’s impact on water quality.
“We continue to monitor those while conservation practices are put on the ground; thus, we can show improvement that’s directly related to the activities that farmers and ranchers are doing to not only improve the quality of water but also to improve the quality of their soil and productivity,” he says.
OCC recently announced seven water quality success stories from across the state. Lam says these are examples of the ongoing effort to promote the progress being made to improve Oklahoma’s water sources. He attributes the state’s success to the idea of tying the in-stream water quality monitoring process to the conservation practices.
“It’s actually being able to monitor over a long period of time - close to those agricultural lands - that we can show that agricultural producers in Oklahoma are doing the right thing through conservation,” he says.
In all, Lam says 55 streams have been removed from Oklahoma’s list of impaired water bodies, and 4 million drainage acres associated with those streams have been cleaned up - 1.5 million more acres than any other state.
Lam says the progress made would not be possible without the collaboration of local conservation districts, the OCC and federal agencies including the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the EPA to provide the voluntary programs. Likewise, he says if programs like this did not exist, landowners could face unfavorable government oversight.
“If these programs weren’t available and we became out of compliance with our water quality, then we could be opening ourselves to regulations and mandates from above,” Lam says. “We don’t feel like that’s the best system. We feel like we have a proven, effective, efficient system that works here in Oklahoma.
“We’ve proven over a number of years this is a program we need to support.”
A newer focus area for the OCC is soil health, and Lam says early adoption of some practices has been driven by farmer leaders in the state who are seeing positive results on their land and want to share with fellow Oklahomans. Because of the state’s diverse terrain and climate, he says OCC is working to make sure landowners have access to effective programs for their respective areas.
“What works in Idabel is not going to work in Guymon, but there are cover crops, there are soil health programs that are going to work in any part of the state and in any environment,” he says. “Our role as the conservation commission and the conservation districts is to get that information out, to have on-farm demonstrations and field days and trainings all across the state so we can show what cover crops, what soil health practices work in specific areas and in specific environments.”
Click on the LISTEN BAR below to hear Lam talk more about OCC’s water quality and soil health improvement efforts.
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