Earth Day principles apply every day on farms

Farmers care for the earth every day, not just Earth Day.

On Earth Day today, many Ohioans will be cleaning nearby highways and streams or recycling to help preserve the environment. However, for Ohio’s farmers, it’s just another day of doing what they always do to be environmentally responsible.

The occasion presents opportunities for farmers to share with other about agriculture. Here is a link from Ohio Farm Bureau with resources for sharing about Ohio agriculture: http://ofbf.org/education-and-reference/agricultural-facts/?url=CARE-4THPSH/.

Also, here are some highlights from industry efforts to recognize the effort of farmers on Earth Day. The dairy industry serves as an example of agriculture’s commitment to the environment.

Ohio’s dairy farmers have always been committed to preserving the earth’s natural resources while taking excellent care of their animals and providing safe, affordable dairy foods,” said Scott E. Higgins, American Dairy Association Mideast president and CEO. “Our farmers live and work on their farms, so they understand the importance of protecting the land, water and air for their families and for the entire community.”

Ohio’s dairy farmers demonstrate their commitment to environmental responsibility by participating in rigorous regulatory and voluntary programs. One such voluntary program is the Livestock Environmental Assurance Program, or LEAP. This program is coordinated and administered by the Ohio Livestock Coalition and is designed to help the state’s livestock farmers identify and address key management issues affecting environmental quality.

Additionally, many farmers work with their local Soil and Water Conservation District to develop a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan that determines exactly how livestock manure is stored, transported and used to amend agricultural soils. Those plans are adjusted as needed to incorporate a change in the number of animals on the farm, development of new storage facilities, and other conditions.

“These partnerships are a critical component of dairy farmers’ commitment to the environment,” Higgins said.  “Excellent land, air and water quality is essential to farming, and it is our ethical obligation to share responsibility for preserving these resources.”

Water conservation and waste management are other important priorities for Ohio’s dairy farmers. Dairy farms of all sizes abide by federal, state and local clean water laws that regulate how manure is applied on cropland, so nutrients go into crops and not groundwater.

In addition to water conservation and waste management techniques, Ohio’s dairy farmers also work hard to protect air quality by following proper manure storage practices and by maintaining clean farms.

Pork producers too spend every day working to benefit the environment and working toward sustainability.

“To us, sustainability is the ability to endure,” said Randy Spronk, a farrow-to-finish pork producer from Edgerton, Minn., who serves on the National Pork Board’s Environmental Committee. “That’s why pork producers support the development of swine operations of all types and sizes that safeguard animal health and welfare, improve the food safety of pork and are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.”

Pork production contributes only one-third of one percent (0.33%) of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, every pound of pork produced in the United States today has a smaller carbon footprint than it used to have 20 years ago, due to improved production methods employed by producers over the years.  Things such as:

* Improved feeding programs that carefully match swine diets to the nutrition needs of the pigs’ based on their sex, age and stage of growth ensures the pig’s health and welfare without overfeeding nutrients that end up in the manure.

* Using manure as a natural fertilizing agent to replace or offset the use of commercial fertilizers that are made from petroleum products. This not only helps reduce the energy use associated with making the commercial fertilizers, but also helps build the carbon content and moisture-holding capacity of soils.

* Improved manure management and application practices, such as following carefully developed manure management plans that match the manure nutrient applied to the nutrient needs of the crops to be grown. Also, injection or incorporation of the manure nutrients at the time of application, not only ensures getting the full fertilizer value of the manure, but guards against runoff that could impact water quality.

* Controlling odor. Windbreaks are an important feature of many swine farms, because the trees help filter the air and reduce the potential transfer of odor from the farm.

“These are just a few examples of how producers strive to be good neighbors in the communities in which they live,” said Stokes.

Pork producers and all of agriculture are working with fewer resources to provide more food for a growing world population. There is not more “Earth Day” than that.

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