American Farms Are Leading the Way in Sustainability

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 2:17pm

Bob Stallman

AFBF President

Americans love a good story and we love a good meal. All the better when the two can go hand-in-hand. Consumers are eager for more stories about their food. They want to know where each meal comes from and how it’s grown.

The market responds, but only haltingly. Walk into a grocery store and you can find just about every label imaginable—free range, non-GMO, organic, gluten-free and natural—you name it, there’s a label for it. Some of these labels are helpful, but none of them can fully tell the story of American agriculture. That’s up to us farmers. We need to tell the story instead of letting others define who we are.

Consider the mantra of sustainability. It’s today’s buzzword, but it’s been our way of life for a century or more. Farmers are producing more food with less land, water and pesticides, and we can prove it. Thanks to tools like Field to Market’s Fieldprint Calculator, we can track our efficiency and environmental impact and share the impressive results. Our practices may vary, but we all know the importance of protecting our resources. Our livelihoods depend on it.

Whether conventional or organic, we all work hard to produce the highest quality food for our customers as affordably as we can. American farms are growing more food using less water and energy, all while protecting the soil for future crops. We need to get out there and tell consumers how we’re making this happen.

We need to tell people in cities and suburbs—cubicle dwellers and factory workers—about the new technology we’re using. They need to know how we are growing more crops on less land with less soil erosion than ever before. Even water use is down thanks to better equipment and genetically modified seeds.

Big data systems let us zero in on fields to use the exact amount of water, seed and crop protection each crop needs. Average consumers don’t know how practices like conservation tillage are protecting our soil, but we can teach them. We can explain how homegrown fuels like ethanol are cutting greenhouse gas emissions. We can proudly share more about how we rotate our crops and use conservation plans to keep the soil healthy. Cover crops, green manure, grassland preservation, no-till techniques—all this and more are mysteries to non-farmers.

Agriculture has a great story of sustainability to share. Conventional and organic alike—we’re keeping America fed and preserving our valuable resources for generations to come. People need to hear it straight from the ones who know it best.

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