Potato Grower

January 2019

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WWW.POTATOGROWER.COM 41 viable, research-based solutions to manage water resources. The program was initiated with input from a strong working group composed of municipal leaders, environmentally oriented non-profit organizations, public agencies, academic researchers, farmers, supply chain partners and agricultural associations. This working group met regularly to discuss potential groundwater management scenarios that would maintain or enhance agricultural, ecosystem and recreational values in the region. The working group envisioned a program with verifiable options for growers so that they could be recognized when providing water stewardship, documenting improvements and working toward research-based water stewardship and conservation goals. The resulting stakeholder process guided the enhancement of mutually acceptable solutions that balance a productive and economically sound agricultural economy with natural resource protection. In 2018, this innovative new approach to water quantity stewardship was formally launched as the Wisconsin Water Stewards. During this past growing season, potato and vegetable growers started using the educational tools. The program allows farmers to identify where they are on the spectrum of agricultural water conservation strategies. It provides flexibility and includes options for all growers—from those who initially just want to learn more about water stewardship, to those ready to invest in production- and location-based conservation changes. The Wisconsin Water Stewards is a tier-based program, with a two- tiered assessment. The base tier is a practice-based water management program that leads to long-term water conservation and increased water use efficiencies, and that allows growers to track improvements overtime. The second, top tier involves the use of groundwater models to develop local and regional conservation strategies customized to individual farms and proximity to sensitive water resources. The top-tier approach involves a meeting with a water use specialist where a conservation plan is developed and implemented. The plan is later revisited to ensure shared goals and subsequent implementation strategies are achievable for both economic and conservation outcomes. This includes a detailed conservation program focused on regional-, farm- and location-based alterations to implement on-farm.

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