Rice Farming

 - EARTH DAY 2009 -

The First Environmentalists

By Bob Stallman

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 a healthier environment and a wide array of green jobs. Through biotechnology, farmers can 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 the soil and water resources.

Unfortunately, the many environmental contributions made by farmers usually don’t get recognized in the news or elsewhere. Critics are quick to point 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.

Bob Stallman is president of American Farm Bureau Federation.

Farm Bureau, Ducks Unlimited applaud base acre decision

The American Farm Bureau Federation and Ducks Unlimited say the Agriculture Department’s decision to reinstate base acres on all federally owned lands is a big win for America’s farmers and conservationists. Both organizations appreciate Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s leadership on the issue.

“This announcement restores the farm safety net for producers who farm federal lands,” says AFBF President Bob Stallman. “The previous rule would have had a two-fold impact of hurting farmers while critically hindering wildlife protection.”

According to both organizations, many producers had an agreement with the government whereby they would leave a percentage of their crops in the field for wildlife. This was particularly popular in rice country where fields could become feeding grounds for ducks.

“Rescinding this rule benefits both America’s farming families and our wildlife and waterfowl,” says Dan Wrinn, director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited. “Thousands of acres of waterfowl habitat will continue to be available to the birds when they reach their wintering grounds next fall.”

The elimination of base acres was included in the farm program rule that was issued by the Bush administration at the end of December. The ruling was not based on any statutory requirement in the 2008 Farm Bill, but was an administrative change. The rule was effective immediately, and left many producers to face their lenders with no safety net coverage for the crop production on this land.

The provision impacted 34 states and represented more than $5.5 million per year in lost direct payments, as well as an unknown amount of counter-cyclical payments.