Earth Day is 365 days a year for farmers and ranchers

By Mike Barnett

Earth Day was celebrated with great fanfare yesterday.

This annual observance serves as a reminder of the fragility of the earth’s resources. Each of us must do our part to ensure we have a clean and healthy planet for generations to come. The problem I see is that the commitments many make for a better environment are a lot like New Year Resolutions. They last for a week or two and then tend to fall by the wayside.

Farmers don’t have that luxury. They must use earth-friendly practices every day of the year. Their ability to keep farming depends on it. And so does your ability to have a full plate of food.

Many activists like to pooh-pooh the idea that farmers are environmental stewards. These facts suggest otherwise:

  • Farmers do more with less. Farm and ranch productivity has increased dramatically since 1950 while the use of labor, feed and fertilizer has declined markedly.
  • Dramatic yield increases. Total U.S. crop yield has increased more than 360 percent since 1950.
  • More efficient land use. U.S. land used for crops has declined by 70 million acres since 1982.
  • Careful stewardship. There’s been nearly a 50 percent decline in erosion of cropland by wind and water since 1982. Conservation tillage—a way of farming that reduces soil erosion on cropland while using less energy–has grown from 17 percent of acreage in 1982 to 63 percent annually.

Are agricultural practices 100 percent perfect? No.  But modern production tools such as global positioning satellites, biotechnology, conservation tillage and integrated pest management enhance farm and ranch productivity while reducing the environmental footprint.

Huge strides have been made over the history of agriculture to increase food production while conserving resources. Many marvels are yet to come.

It takes awareness, commitment and research. It also takes incentive.

Farmers and ranchers know that enhancing their land and water resources will allow them to grow a crop next year and will allow their great grandchildren to grow a crop 100 years from now.

Earth Day? It happens every day on the farm and ranch.

Photo © Juliengrondin |

Mike Barnett

Director of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
I’m a firm believer that farmers and ranchers will continue to meet the needs of a growing world population by employing equal measures of common sense, conservation and technology.
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