Wearing the white hat of environmental stewardship
Where once most U.S. residents were either farmers or one generation removed from the farm, today farmers account for less than 2 percent of the country’s population. As a result, the level of understanding that earlier generations of farmers could depend upon is no longer there.
While we understand the frustration of farmers with environmental rules and regulations, we are also concerned that today’s farmers not squander the positive image of farmers as good stewards of the land that was created by earlier generations.
When urban residents are facing higher wastewater treatment bills necessary to finance improved treatment plants designed to reduce point source pollution, they are not likely to be positively influenced by agribusiness entities and farm organizations that argue against the application of environmental regulations to their operations.
People who make these arguments give a black eye to all farmers, even those who deal responsibly with their animal waste and those who have adopted practices that enable them to keep their yields up while reducing their application of nitrogen and phosphorus on their fields.
If farmers are to regain the high ground with these issues they are going to have to become proactive in identifying and adopting practices that significantly reduce their contribution to the dead zones that attract the public’s attention. In the long-run, actions that improve their public standing on environmental issues may also end up improving their bottom line.