Earth Day was Tuesday, April 22, and presented a unique opportunity to engage with the public about America’s farmers and ranchers and their role as environmental stewards who care for our nation’s land, air and water.
The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970. It is credited by many for launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws soon followed the first Earth Day 42 years ago. According to the Earth Day Network, more than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.
The theme for this year’s Earth Day is “Green Cities.” According to the Earth Day Network, “as the world’s population migrates to cities, and as the bleak reality of climate change becomes increasingly clear, the need to create sustainable communities is more important than ever.
Earth Day 2014 will seek to do just that through its global theme: Green Cities. With smart investments in sustainable technology, forward-thinking public policy, and an educated and active public, we can transform our cities and forge a sustainable future. Nothing is more powerful than the collective action of a billion people.”
More details on Earth Day 2014 are available on the Earth Day Network’s website here.
Also of interest:
“America’s Heartland” Earth Day webisode:
An Earth Day webisode produced by “America’s Heartland” features stories about people in agriculture who are true environmental stewards. For them, it’s more than just good business – it’s what they believe in. Watch here.
Our allies at the Center for Food Integrity have come up with a couple of statements about the environment that may be useful when discussing Earth Day. All of CFI’s values-based messages are available here.
- “We drink the same water and breathe the same air as our neighbors. I want to protect and sustain the environment for my family, my community and for future generations so they have it as good, or better, than I do. There are strict standards in place for nutrient and waste management, and we respect, support and abide by those standards.”
- “I’m proud of the steps I take each day on my farm to protect the air and water, including (discuss your particular environmental practices and why they are beneficial).”
General talking points that may be useful in responding to media inquiries about Earth Day:
·While farm and ranch productivity has increased dramatically since 1950, the use of resources (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.) required for production has declined markedly.
·America’s farmers and ranchers are doing their part to feed a growing world. Total U.S. crop yield (tons per acre) has increased more than 360 percent since 1950.
·Dairy cow milk production has become more efficient since 1980. The pounds of feed (grain, forage, etc.) a cow needs to consume to produce 100 pounds of milk has decreased by more than 40 percent on average in the last 30 years.
·Since 1982, U.S. land used for crops has declined by 70 million acres. Conservation tillage, a way of farming that reduces erosion (soil loss) on cropland while using less energy, has grown from 17 percent of acreage in 1982 to 63 percent currently.
·Careful stewardship by America’s food producers spurred a nearly 50 percent decline in erosion of cropland by wind and water since 1982.
Note: A series of print-ready “USA Today-style” graphics illustrating the above talking points (developed by AFBF based on the NRI survey) may be viewed/downloaded here.
·Farmers have voluntarily enrolled 30 million acres in the voluntary Conservation Reserve Program to date, making it the largest public-private partnership for conservation and wildlife habitat in the U.S.
·America’s farm and ranch families are dedicated to caring for our planet. They are ethical caretakers of the land and water resources that help make our nation’s bounty possible.
·In addition to their ethical dedication to protecting the land, it is in the economic interest of farmers and ranchers to care for natural resources. America’s farmers and ranchers take their commitment to land stewardship very seriously.
·Through modern conservation and tillage practices, farmers and ranchers are reducing the loss of soil through erosion, which protects lakes and rivers.
·Today, it is possible for farmers and ranchers to produce more food, fiber and fuel than ever before on fewer acres with fewer crop production supplies.
·Such modern production tools as GPS, biotechnology, conservation tillage and integrated pest management enhance farm and ranch productivity while reducing the environmental footprint.
·Farmers and ranchers are proven and committed environmental stewards, but they are justifiably concerned about the regulatory overreach of the Environmental Protection Agency. At the very time agriculture’s environmental footprint is shrinking, EPA has ramped up its regulatory force.
·More regulations in the face of clear progress (see National Resources Inventory information below) could lead to unintended and negative consequences for the environment.
Useful Information from the National Resources Inventory–
Shortly after Earth Day 2010, the Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service released the latest National Resources Inventory. Through empirical data, the NRI shows that America’s farmers and ranchers care for the land, and through their actions the environment has continually improved over the past 50 years, while at the same time farm and ranch productivity has dramatically increased.
The 2010 National Resources Inventory confirms America’s farm and ranch families are producing more with fewer resources.
The message from the NRI is clear: American agriculture is producing more with less. The productivity figures and shrinking environmental footprint of food and fiber production in the United States verified by the NRI data proves that U.S. agriculture is the envy of the world.
Access the full text of the NRI report here.