The Roundup -

Every Day is Earth Day for Farmers & Ranchers


April 22 marks the 44th anniversary of Earth Day, begun in 1970 and thought of as the day the modern environmental movement started. Even though the general public thinks about Earth Day as a time for rallies in the park, trash pickup and an uptick in recycling efforts, farmers and ranchers spend more time out in the natural environment than most people.

“The success of ranchers and farmers centers around extensive resource management,” notes Bob Hanson, president of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation and a White Sulphur Springs rancher. “Whether you are managing forages for grazing or haying, or figuring out the details for planting and fertilizing a crop, there is plenty of consideration given towards the grass and soil.”

Statistics show that farmers and ranchers are managing their land better than ever. Conservation tillage, a way of farming that reduces erosion (soil loss) while using less energy has grown from 17 percent of total acreage in 1982 to 63 percent today. Crop rotation, a practice of growing different crops in succession on the same land, is another way farmers take care of the land and reduce crop disease.

Due to technological advances in farming, a Global Positioning System (GPS) and auto-steer guidance systems are used to increase crop yields, lower costs and reduce chemical use which benefits the environment. Precision agricultural technologies like this are now used on 50 percent of U.S. farms and ranches. This helps farmers identify where to plant seeds (and how many) and, if needed, apply variable rates of pesticides and fertilizer.

Ranchers are wise managers of the land. Considerations vary from planning how many animal units (AUMs) can graze on specific acreage based on forage quality and quantity to providing water sources not only for their animals but for wildlife.

“Landowners provide more than 75 percent of the habitat for wildlife. Many farmers set aside buffer zones and wetland areas to provide food and shelter for a variety of critters,” said Hanson. “Farmers and ranchers are outside daily looking at the grass, trees, birds, deer and everything nature offers. If they don’t manage their resources, they won’t be able to have healthy cattle or an abundant crop. People who believe farmers and ranchers simply dump chemicals on the crops or dump more animals on a pasture than that resource will allow are wrong.”

Hanson urges consumers with concerns about the way farmers and ranchers operate to talk to them, whether in person or through social media.

Every day is Earth Day for farmers and ranchers.


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