As we celebrate Earth Day, 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 and ranchers across the nation and here in Utah 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.
Protecting the land, water and air is a top priority for farmers and ranchers. It always has been. Unlike other jobs, farming is also a way of life usually passed down from one generation to the next. 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. In Utah, many farmers and ranchers have participated in a salinity project with the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service to reduce salinity concentrations in the Colorado River. The project in Ferron, Emery County, has resulted in a reduction of 48,000 tons of salt from entering the Colorado River by switching from flood irrigation to a pressurized irrigation system.
Habitat for Livestock and Wildlife
Farmers are at the forefront of producing clean, renewable fuels that provide for a healthier environment and a wide array of green jobs. Through biotechnology, farmers are also able to 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 soil and water resources.
Farmers and ranchers in Utah have also led efforts to improve their rangelands and pastures in order to benefit livestock as well as wildlife. In recent years, the Sand County Foundation (one of the country's leading conservation groups) teamed up with the Utah Farm Bureau, Utah Cattlemen's Association, and Western AgCredit to recognize farmers and ranchers who make superior contributions to conservation and environmental stewardship. An example of such efforts was found in last year's Leopold Conservation Award winner, Butch and Jeanie Jensen who operate the Tavaputs Ranch in Carbon County. Their use of rotational grazing has helped promote greater vegetation on their ranch. It also provides for a significant sage-grouse population as well as other wildlife. Jensen's efforts are characteristic of many others involved in Utah agriculture.
Unfortunately, the many environmental contributions made by farmers don't get recognized too often in the news or elsewhere. Critics are all too quick to point their 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.