How Collaboration Can Help Manage Water Issues for Ag Businesses

Ag producers are joining forces for business advantages

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Both ag producers and consumers are moving towards a shared goal of water, soil, and yield stewardship. To this end, ag businesses are trying to decide upon sustainable initiatives that will pay off for their business. With new sustainability strategies and technology to protect critical resources appearing daily in the market, it becomes harder for producers to discern which investments will pay off for the long term.

“In order to implement them appropriately, we’ve discovered that producers who join forces to evaluate options, optimize costs, and execute without hassle fare much better,” says Quint Shambaugh, KCoe land advisor.

Since water and land are interconnected, and have no sense of man-made property lines, the greatest opportunity to improve efficiency and productivity comes from collaborating within the watershed.

“For any individual or sole entity thinking of CAPEX improvements, you lose tremendous pricing, impact, and yield benefits by doing it alone. By bringing ag-focused neighbors together for enhancements across the watershed, producers amplify savings, stewardship, and productivity,” says Shambaugh.

Independent Drainage Downsides:  3 Risks for Going it Alone

Draining individual farms may seem like an obvious choice, but there are enormous risks associated with this approach.

  1. Too large. The sheer magnitude of the massive undertaking that drainage management entails is often over-simplified.
  2. Too costly. The cost-share opportunities with neighbors and jurisdictions are missed.
  3. Too overwhelming. The whole process ends up being much more time consuming.

Typically, the first steps that should be taken in any drainage project include meeting districts, local watershed stakeholders, and other parties to discuss regulations, goals, land and water attributes – all of which are no small task and often overwhelm the inexperienced.

Without knowing how to navigate these necessities such as details about neighbors’ water flows – a project can have disastrous financial and strategic outcomes. This scenario ends up costing even more in the long run and threatens individual producers’ output (let alone their sanity).

KCoe Pro Tip:

Over the years our experts have seen that working independently can lead to inefficient drainage outcomes. The cost of improper drainage means soil erosion, ineffective use of inputs, and overall loss of production. Land is affected by inefficient drainage through loss of precious topsoil, compaction, and overall nutrient loss.  That’s why holistic land and water management is needed like never before. Objective advice, innovative solutions, and third-party perspective managing the collaborators as a whole prevents these negative consequences from happening.

Holistic Water Drainage:  Benefits of Collaboration

To maximize the advantages of drainage water management and land improvement projects, it is essential to plan with the future objectives of the entire watershed. Relationships with neighbors are critical.

“We’ve seen so many circumstances where neighbors can have a huge impact on the future of the entire watershed. For instance, when a drainage district wants to make further developments, this could impact the entire watershed’s long-term plan. Other examples include deciding on adequately sized mains, lateral spacing, or quality ditches/outlets. These elements all may have an impact on surface solutions by controlling erosion,” says Shambaugh.

Advantages of holistic drain management: 

  • Improves conservation outcomes
  • Accelerates growth
  • Reduces long-term costs
  • Increases productivity
  • Builds relationships

In addition to the technicalities, working with neighbors towards a common goal helps build rapport and long-lasting relationships for hard-working rural American families. Neglecting to discuss these issues with multiple parties can lead to future financial loss and can be a huge roadblock on the path to land conservation.

Shambaugh advises that there could be many complexities and relationships within a watershed and recommends using professional consultants who can conduct full scale watershed assessments to benefit everyone’s productivity and long-term resilience.  “A professional can act as the objective, third party on everyone’s behalf, and maximize land and water management investments by offering analysis, innovative solutions, and holistic services that are beneficial for all parties.”

Working collaboratively has been proven a wise agricultural and business decision that improves conservation outcomes.

Contact a KCoe land advisor with questions, or visit KCoe’s land management webpage for more information.

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