Farmers and Fishers come together to restore trout stream near St. Peter

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

The Fishers and Farmers Partnership, a program developed through US Fish and Wildlife Service, has brought together farm producers and anglers with the common goal of restoring fish habitats.

Fishers and Farmers Partnership for the Upper Mississippi River Basin has adopted three projects, one each in Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri. Minnesota Corn Growers Association is a signatory to the group’s charter.

Group members gathered recently at Seven Mile Creek, near St. Peter, Minnesota, to view a stretch of the watercourse that they hope can become a vibrant trout stream again.

Steve Sodeman, a director with Minnesota Corn Growers Association and chairman of Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Coalition, jumped at the chance to interact with fishermen and tell them about the interest shared by farmers in improving water quality through projects like this. Sodeman noted that most farmers he knows love fishing, so it’s a natural match when it comes to farmers looking to reach out and build bridges to the non-farming public.

“We’re trying to work with people, make friends–we are finding that there are reasonable people out there,” said Sodeman, who is a partner in a crop consulting firm based in Trimont. Sodeman said, “Being there, you can develop a relationship and educate people about what is going on in agriculture. It’s an opportunity to be present. Water is one of the most significant issues of our time and we need to be there and be part of what is happening.”

The Mississippi River chapter of Fishers and Farmers Partnership has not yet set firm goals regarding the Seven Mile Creek project, but the broad outline is to control sediment loading through the construction of embankments and the seeding of plants that will act as a buffer. These vegetative buffer strips slow down water entering the creek and remove sediment and nutrients that can impact the clarity, temperature and oxygen levels in water–all characteristics that are critical in trout habitats.

Sodeman said that in a context like this, where people come together to work on a project, one can’t be a wallflower. Taking a chance, and expressing an opinion leads to relationship and real communication.

“I expressed the opinion that there are some problems with the film, Troubled Waters, (which is featured on the Fishers and Farmers Partnership web site),” Sodeman said. “We take issue with how some things are presented, with some of the things stated as fact, and I said very straightforwardly that it is a real sore spot with some of us. We had a very positive discussion that came out of that. It made the folks I was talking with think about it in a different way, where before they simply accepted what the film presented. That’s all you can do. You take it one little step at a time.”

Sodeman said Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Coalition presents “a fantastic opportunity–it’s all of agriculture, speaking with one voice, about our concerns with water quality and how government approaches the issue and regulates agriculture. We have a firm belief that the more actual scientific research into water quality restoration methods, the more effective we can all be, working together, to achieve our water quality goals. It’s not about casting blame on one group or another, but about finding out what really works and getting it done.”


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