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The Ag Agenda

April 2009

Farmers and Ranchers: The First Environmentalists

Bob Stallman
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

As we celebrate Earth Day this April, let's not forget all of the contributions farmers and ranchers make to protect our environment. From planting hundreds of thousands of trees on their farmland to providing habitat for wildlife and increasing wetlands, farmers practice conservation efforts every day of the year.

Farmers have always been the primary caretakers of the land. In fact, I would make the argument that farmers and ranchers are the world's first environmentalists.

Another Kind of Office Space

Farmers and ranchers have a huge responsibility to care for the environment. Unlike many other occupations, a farmer's office is not contained by four walls and a ceiling. It is a field, a pasture or even a body of water. Most importantly, a farmer's livelihood depends on how well he or she cares for that "office" space.

Protecting the land, water and air is a top priority for agriculturalists. It always has been. Unlike other jobs, farming is also a way of life usually passed down from one generation to the next. And with that job passed from parent to child, typically comes the "office." It only makes sense that farmers would try to take the best possible care of their land. As the old proverb goes: We did not inherit this earth, we are only borrowing it from our children.

Farmers not only do a great deal to protect their land, they strive to make it better. Aside from planting trees, protecting wetlands and providing wildlife protection, farmers prevent soil erosion through conservation tillage and improve environmental quality by installing conservation buffers on their farmland. Funding provided by the farm bill empowers farmers to take part in additional conservation programs to preserve and restore wetlands, clean the air and water and enhance wildlife habitat.

Greener Pastures

Farmers are at the forefront of producing clean, renewable fuels that provide for a healthier environment and a wide array of green jobs. Through biotechnology, farmers are also able to reduce the use of pesticides and are working toward a future where they can produce more food on less land with even fewer impacts on soil and water resources.

Unfortunately, the many environmental contributions made by farmers don't get recognized too often in the news or elsewhere. Critics are all too quick to point their fingers at farmers for environmental problems. Often, there's no scientific data or research to support these claims.

But, America's farmers and ranchers recognize that they are the primary caretakers of the land. They are the world's first environmentalists. It's a huge weight to carry, but one that is taken on with honor and pride.

Farmers and ranchers don't celebrate Earth Day once a year. They live it every day. It's because of their many environmental contributions that we all can enjoy greener pastures.

Happy Earth Day.