FARMERS & RANCHERS: THE REAL DEAL ON EARTH DAY
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Planting a tree for Earth Day? Each year, farmers plant hundreds of thousands of trees on American farmland.
As we take a moment on April 22 to observe this wonderful planet we call home, it might not be such a bad idea to celebrate agriculture's contributions toward keeping the land healthy, the air clean and the water clear. While other groups publicly tout themselves as "true environmentalists," farmers and ranchers should take the credit they deserve for being the first stewards of the land.
Farmers are the real deal when it comes to protecting the environment. For generations, they have toiled on the land. They understand its complexities and know exactly how to safely manage their soil and water resources. Their farms are not only their place of work, but also their homes. Farm families drink the water from their land and breathe the air from their farm, so it goes without saying they strive to ensure that their farming practices are environmentally safe.
American farmers and ranchers have a stake in the future of America's natural resources. With more than 98 percent of America's farms and ranches operated by individuals or families, maintaining and improving our nation's natural resources is vital to keeping the business in the family for generations to come.
So it comes as no surprise that farmers are proactive when it comes to caring for the landscape. With the help of billions of dollars in conservation funding from the 2002 farm bill, they have been able to better prevent soil erosion, preserve and restore wetlands and clean the air and water. Further, more than half of U.S. farmers intentionally provide enhanced habitat for wildlife.
Modern farming techniques also help keep the environment healthy. With Global Positioning Systems, farmers have reduced chemical use in their fields. And because of biotechnology, weed and pest-resistant crops require fewer pesticides. With continued research and application of biotechnology, in the future more food will be produced on less land with even fewer impacts on soil and water resources.
The use of renewable fuels also plays a big role in keeping the environment clean by reducing pollution. Corn and soybeans used for ethanol and biodiesel are just the beginning. Livestock manure is being used to create electricity. Canola-based oils are being developed as a lubricant to replace petroleum products, and cornstarch is replacing petroleum-based plastics.
So this Earth Day as you listen to the many speeches about saving the planet, you can speak up with full confidence about America's farmers and ranchers' many conservation efforts. After all, they are the environment's primary caretakers.
Tracy Taylor Grondine is director of media relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.