|6/28/2014 11:35:00 AM|
Letters to the editor: Sustainability important to farmers, their customers, planet
A change is underway in Illinois agriculture that affects everyone including my own family, people in our community and our customers throughout the world. More than ever, shoppers are paying more attention to how food is produced, as well as food’s safety, nutritional value and cost. Environmental questions are increasing. Although a new issue for some, these concerns aren’t new for farmers.
As a soybean farmer, I feel it’s important for people to know why sustainability has always mattered to farmers, and why we’re giving it even more attention.
Farmers have a long track record of decreasing our environmental impact per bushel produced. We’ve taken a number of steps in the last 30 years including reducing tillage, reducing land use, slashing oil erosion, using less energy and protecting air quality. And even with these changes, we’ve still managed to increase yields about 50 percent.
We’re also taking many other steps to keep improving. We’re making changes in the way we work — not because of outside demands — but because it’s the right thing to do. Also, protecting the environment connects with my bottom line. Farming has become a business where inches matter, so putting just the right amount of seed, fertilizer or pest control exactly where needed is farming healthier, smarter and more efficiently. It also puts my money exactly where it’s needed. Ecology and economics go together on a farm.
Another reason sustainability is important to farmers is because we want to do the best job we can to answer our customers’ questions about how we raise our crops and livestock. Many of those questions are coming up because few people today are familiar with farming. In 1940, farm families were about 30 percent of the U.S. population; today they’re less than 1 percent. So we need to reach out to have more conversations about what we do.
What farmers do to protect natural resources also is gaining the interest of our overseas soybean customers, who buy more than one-half of our crop. If we are going to stay viable and maintain market share in an increasingly competitive world market, we must listen to our global consumers.
Farmers work together to accomplish our sustainability goals. We share the knowledge we’ve gained through our own trial and error, and we fund studies with checkoff investments made from groups such as the Illinois Soybean Association.
Farm sustainability matters because the stakes are high. It’s important to us, our customers and our planet. So we’re taking it very seriously.
If you'd like to comment on this article, please log in or click here to subscribe.