Farmers putting ‘skinny’ in production

Today’s farmers and ranchers grow more food with fewer resources. Conservation-tillage is up and soil erosion is declining. As farmers and ranchers, we know this based on our experience. Now, a new report confirms this has occurred nationwide.

The 2010 National Resources Inventory (NRI) recently released by the Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service shows that farmers and ranchers are careful and caring stewards of our nation’s natural resources. The massive report, coupled with the latest USDA productivity figures, confirms the shrinking environmental footprint of our efforts to produce food and fiber in the United States. This is good news that should not go unreported.

The NRI is a compilation of a broad range of 50 years of data related to the environment, U.S. land use and productivity, water consumption and many other factors. Careful analysis of the data by AFBF quantifies how farm and ranch productivity has increased over the past two and a half decades, while at the same time environmental performance and water quality have improved.

There are several major points from the survey that I think tell a compelling story about agriculture.

First off, today’s farmers produce more food with fewer resources. 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. For example, in 2008 farmers produced 262 percent more food with 2 percent fewer inputs, compared with 1950.

Secondly, farmers can feed more people thanks to the miracle of productivity. Total U.S. crop yield has increased more than 360 percent since 1950, helping America’s farmers and ranchers do our part to feed a growing world.

Additional points of importance include how America’s dairy farmers are producing more milk with less feed. It takes 40 percent less feed for a cow to produce 100 pounds of milk than it did 30 years ago.

Further, U.S. farm land used for crops has declined by 70 million acres or 15 percent, since 1982. And soil erosion continues to decline. Careful stewardship by America’s food producers spurred a nearly 50 percent decline in erosion of cropland by wind and water since 1982.

These facts, based on in-the-field science, are worth sharing. Farm and ranch families today are caring for our natural resources while feeding our nation. In fact, we are doing so with greater efficiency than ever before. I guess you could say we are cutting the fat and putting the “skinny” in production. Any way you slice it, that makes sense for people and our planet.

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