Happy National Ag Week! I’m so proud of the faithful service and hard work of America’s farmers and ranchers all year long, and I’m grateful for how this week shines a spotlight on our great industry. This year’s theme is “Farming for Life,” and that’s just what we are doing each day as we grow the products that feed, clothe and fuel our nation.
Together, we are growing more with less fuel, fertilizer and water. Thanks to the latest technology and innovation, the modern farm is preventing soil erosion and cutting back greenhouse gas emissions. None of this would be possible, however, without access to precision ag tools and better seeds. Take GMOs for example. Studies show that in 2014, GMOs made it possible for farmers to reduce emissions by 5.2 billion pounds. That’s the same as taking nearly 10 million cars off the road for a year! These are the stories consumers need to hear from us. Ag Week is the perfect time to get out there and explain how technology and ag innovation are making our crops healthier and our farmland more sustainable.
Many consumers didn’t grow up on or near a farm. But we are seeing more interest in how food gets to the grocery store and dinner table. To farmers and ranchers, sustainability practices like no-till and buffer strips are old hat, but it’s a whole new vocabulary to most consumers. We need to explain these terms and practices, and not shy away from talking about the ways technology has changed America’s farmland. There’s a risk to keeping silent. Our farms, our nation’s health and the environment shouldn’t suffer at the hands of groups and activists who would put us out of business by ignoring science and spreading misinformation. We can shift the conversation—and we are—starting with our local communities and going all the way to our lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
While environmental practices are the first order of business when we talk about sustainability, we can’t stop there if we’re going to secure the future of agriculture. We need policies that promote the business of agriculture if we are going to keep on “farming for life.” We need to open new markets through better trade deals and we must fix our broken immigration system if production is to keep up with market demands. We need to move forward with commonsense, science-based rules and create a regulatory process that is transparent.
Farmers have a long history of adapting to change, especially when those changes are for the better. Let’s continue to work together to ensure that changes in policy and practice are good for our farmland and protect our nation’s food supply for generations to come.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.