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Farmers Caring for the Earth Everyday

Zippy Duvall


photo credit: AFBF Photo/Philip Gerlach

Spring is my favorite time of year on the farm. Our mama cows are welcoming their calves. The fields are green, and everything feels a little more vibrant with life. There’s also nothing quite like watching a spring sunrise on the farm, and when I look out, I am proud of all we have done, and are still doing, to keep this farmland healthy and productive. My son and I work every day to restore the land passed down from my father and grandfather. Our story isn’t unique either, as thousands of American farmers and ranchers rise each day to grow a safe, sustainable food supply while leaving the land better than we found it.

Numbers from the Environmental Protection Agency continue to show that U.S. farmers and ranchers are leading the way in caring for our land, air and water. According to the latest numbers from EPA, released just last week, U.S. agriculture reduced its overall emissions by 4.3% from 2019 to 2020. The numbers get even more impressive when Farm Bureau economists break down emissions per capita. With a growing population and increased needs for food, fuel and fiber, farmers are rising to the challenge through efficiency and sustainability practices. Over the last 30 years, ag emissions per capita in the U.S. have gone down 20%.

Sustainability is just what we do, 365 days a year.

We are making a big impact when it comes to farming sustainably. U.S. farms are producing more food, feed, fiber and renewable fuels without using more resources, while helping to conserve water and soil, enhance biodiversity and conserve energy. We produce nearly three times more than we use in resources, thanks to innovation and precision ag technology. To put it another way, it would have taken around 100 million more acres 30 years ago to produce what we do today.

We should be proud of what we have achieved together as farmers and ranchers, but that doesn’t mean we’re saying our work on sustainability is done either. Farmers and ranchers are always looking to do better, and I am excited for our future for our children and grandchildren. We also need to increase funding to support ground-breaking research at our land-grant universities. The work in these labs will fuel our efforts as tomorrow’s tools come from today’s research.

Farmers can’t build on our sustainability gains alone, either. We must continue working together across the food chain. It’s great to see companies taking steps to partner with farmers through incentives and grants that help them build on sustainability efforts. In just a couple weeks, USDA will announce the first round of pilot projects chosen in its Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program. This program will soon be a reality because we came to the table, told our story and demonstrated how farmers and ranchers should be treated as partners in sustainability. That shift in the conversation happened because of your work and dedication, and our work together as a Farm Bureau family and in our historic alliance with food, agriculture, forestry and environmental groups.

In just a couple days, we’ll mark Earth Day. As many farmers like to say, “Every day is Earth Day on the farm.” But that isn’t just a nice sentiment for us. We back those words with our actions and our way of life. Sustainability is just what we do, 365 days a year.

Zippy Duvall

Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.