April 28 through May 5 is Soil and Water Conservation Week, a time to take a good look at how we're doing at preserving our topsoil and working to ensure the quality of our nation's waters.
This couldn't be a more timely topic than now, with high corn prices - and possibly high yields for our area, at least - pushing farmers into tilling more land all the time.
And who can blame them. Iowa farmers feed the world. and with such a tremendous responsibility on their shoulders, they're under increasing pressure to be more productive all the time.
If we want to take a long-term perspective, though, all we need to do is look back in history to see what happens when we don't try to exercise conservation measures on our nation's farmlands.
The 1930s, known by those who remember them as the "Dirty Thirties", showed what can happen when land is tilled with no thought of the vicissitudes of nature. In the 1930s, a multi-year drought that wreaked havoc on the land.
Conservation measures started in the 1940s continue today. They're intended to help make sure this doesn't happen again.
However, as John Torbert, executive director of the Iowa Drainage District Association, told the Emmet County Board of Supervisors earlier this week, there are five to six times the requests for cost-share assistance for conservation projects through the Natural Resources Conservation Service as there's money to fund them.
"Programs are hopelessly underfunded," Torbert said.
Just as our government participates in crop insurance programs because it has a vested interest in helping ensure a safe and sure food supply, it also has a vested interest in ensuring that the very soil form which those crops are grown remains safe and secure.
Any attempt to cut back on NRCS cost-share programs should in no way be seen as cutting back a farm subsidy. Instead, it should be seen as tampering with out nation's food supply.
Farmers want to help preserve our nation's land and water. But they can't do it alone. If they're expected to feed everyone, then our nation needs to step up to the plate and help farmers pay for conservation practices like terraces, dikes and grassed waterways.
Cost-share isn't important to just farmers. It's also important to all of us.