Thursday, March 17, 2011

Its Easy Being Green

Everywhere I go today I see green, that is probably because it is St. Patty's Day. However, as a farmer/ rancher I see green everyday. This week is Kansas Ag Week and each day had a theme, today's theme is Agriculture and Conserving Natural Resources.

I maintain that farmers and ranchers started the original green movement. Agriculture does more to preserve and improve the air, soil and water than any other business I know of. Sure big lobbying groups like the Sierra Club and the Environmental Working Group would say otherwise but they will say anything to get your donation. The real truth of the matter is that farmers and ranchers work hard to protect the environment.

Soil conservation has long been a focus in agriculture. Farmers started using terraces, water ways and other conservation practices almost 100 years ago. Today soil conservation has evolved into no-till farming and the immense technology behind this practice. The soil loss off of a field with conservation structures, farmed no-till is very minimal and very close to that of the native prairie. As farmers we realize that the soil is our lifeblood and we need to keep it in place.

Water quality is another area that farmers and ranchers are deeply committed to. Our creeks, rivers and ponds may be cleaner in some instances than they were before the plains were settled. Buffer strips, sedimentation basins, pond exclusions and fencing off of waterways have improved water quality and safety exponentially. Farming practices such as no-till have lowered the use of herbicides, new plant genetics have reduced the need for insecticides and better soil testing has led to more targeted and efficient application of fertilizers. This all results in less run off and cleaner, healthier creeks, rivers and ponds.

Air quality has become a hot button issue and our very own Flint Hills ranchers are working to make the air quality in places like Wichita and Kansas City better. The new Flint Hills Smoke Management plan will help reduce the amount of smoke drifting over our urban neighbors from our beneficial prescribed burns. This is a voluntary plan, implemented because we want to be good neighbors. Other practices like no-till have reduced the dust in the air and the amount of wind erosion. Modern swine, poultry, dairy and beef production systems greatly reduce the odors they give off and help to improve the quality of life for their neighbors also.

I am the proud producer of the food and fiber we all need, but this day has made me aware of something else also. Because of the great advances in technology and the dedication of my fellow farmers and ranchers, I can also say that I am a proud environmentalist dedicated to preserving the natural resources from which I make my living.

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