Seventh-generation farmer explains clarity and certainty new rule would bring to water resources. IFB encourages members to submit comments by the April 15 deadline.

Conservation practices have been a mainstay on Lee County farmer Adam Henkel’s operation for three generations, and he plans to pass that commitment onto the next generation, including 4-year-old Olivia. (Photos courtesy of Adam Henkel)

By Deana Stroisch

Conservation has been a common practice for three generations of the Henkel family.

Adam Henkel’s grandfather, Joe, sold his plows in the 1970s and switched to a cropping rotation that allowed reduced tillage. He also used terraces, farm ponds and windbreaks to help minimize soil erosion.

Henkel’s father, Jerry, and uncles, Greg and Fran, took those conservation practices even further, switching to full no-till in 1990 and strip-tilling corn in the 2000s.

Henkel, a seventh-generation farmer in Lee County, returned to the family farm after college in 2002. The family then started using more technology and variable rates to apply fertilizer and seed.

Today they grow corn, soybeans and seed corn. This year, for the first time, they will grow cereal rye for seed to supply their own cover crop seeding needs.

“We only put back nutrients in the amounts we take off,” he said. “With banded applications of our nutrients, we minimize the chances of nutrient runoff. We have also been using cover crops on all our acres for six years now.”

He supports the Clean Water Rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers. In comments to EPA and the Corps, Henkel said the proposed rule protects water resources and provides greater clarity so everyone can identify regulated federal waterways.

“This new proposed rule would ensure that I don’t need a team of lawyers or consultants to tell me what is, and what is not, regulated by EPA and the Corps,” he said. “The 2015 rule, by contrast, provided none of the clarity and certainty it promised. Instead, the rules gave EPA and the Corps virtually unlimited authority to regulate, at their discretion, ‘navigable’ waters.”

Henkel told FarmWeek he filed comments so federal agencies know farmers are trying to do the right things and make a difference.

“My grandfather didn't just farm, he took care of the land for the next generation,” he said. “Now, we have acres planted specifically for bees to have a safe habitat.”

To submit comments, text “WATERS” to 52886 or email Lauren Lurkins at for help filing substantive comments. The deadline is April 15.