DeWitt County farmer: Conservation 'right thing to do'

IFB Director Robert Klemm looks to proposed Clean Water Rule to protect water resources, respect the law and provide greater clarity to agencies, farmers and public.

DeWitt County farmer Robert Klemm has adopted a number of conservation practices in an effort to follow his father's advice: Leave the farm more productive than you received it. (Photo by Catrina Rawson)

By Deana Stroisch

Robert Klemm remembers his father’s instructions when he retired in 1980: Leave the farm more productive than you received it.

Decades later, it’s the same advice Robert is giving his son, John, as he turns the operation over to him.

“The most important aspects of our version of productive are soil conservation and water quality,” said Klemm, who also serves as Illinois Farm Bureau District 11 director.

The family’s centennial farm in DeWitt County was purchased by Klemm’s great-grandfather in 1905. Klemm started farming with his dad, Walter, after he graduated from college in 1974.

Today, Klemm and his son grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa. They also have a small Black Angus cow-calf operation and sell the meat directly to consumers.

Through the years, the family has adopted a number of conservation practices. Starting in 1988, they began no-till and minimum till. A few years ago, Klemm began experimenting with cover crops on the areas of the farm more prone to erosion. They also planted many acres of grassed waterways, which they continually maintain.

On other farms the Klemm family owns and operates, they maintain parallel terraces to control runoff and soil erosion, along with grass buffer strips along open ditches.

Related: Find out what other farmers are saying in support of the proposed Clean Water Rule here, here and here.  

Last year, Klemm began participating in the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) in an effort to meet Nutrient Research and Education Council standards. Participation in CSP also helps offset his costs of GPS soil testing, variable fertilizer application and tissue testing.

“We have a long, continuous history of conservation and environmental benefit on the farmland,” he said. “We will continue to embody that philosophy in our business model because it is the right thing to do for our property and the environment.”

Klemm shared his family’s story in support of the Clean Water Rule proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers. He said he welcomes the proposed rule as it “protects water resources, respects the law and provides greater clarity so the agencies, farmers and the public can identify regulated waterways.”

He encouraged other farmers to submit comment as well. The deadline is April 15.

“We have an opportunity to be influential,” he said. “It’s our obligation to take advantage of that opportunity in my humble opinion.”

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