Monday, January 10, 2011

Agriculture’s Incredible Shrinking Footprint

American agriculture has a great story to tell of increasing productivity while at the same time decreasing its environmental footprint. The first of the Town Hall Forums held Saturday at AG CONNECT Expo in the Successful Farming Innovations Theater was “The Shrinking Environmental Footprint of Agriculture” which was moderated by former National Resources Conservation Service chief Bruce Knight, a third-generation rancher, farmer and conservationist from South Dakota. He says he’s amazed by the progress in agriculture just in his lifetime is amazing. “I think about my own father coming home from World War II and still using horses to put up hay. I got started using 16 foot equipment. Now we’re using GPS guidance systems. It is an incredible adventure for all of us in agriculture.” Two excellent presenters provided some good information for people in agriculture to know and share about how American farmers and ranchers continue to produce more food while using less natural resources. Karen Scanlon, executive director of the Conservation Technology Information Center, talked about advancements in row crop production. “It’s fortifying for farmers and those who support farmers to recognize that there have been impressive achievements in the last few decades and it’s also encouragement that we can continue to do more.” Dr. Jude Capper of Washington State University, a livestock carbon footprint expert, talked about the importance of looking at the footprint in terms of the production, not the animal. “Compared to 1944, now we have bigger cows, they eat more feed, but they also give more milk, so milk yield per cow has increase four fold since 1944,” she explains. “We’ve cut cow numbers by 60 percent, but we also make 59 percent more milk, so that cut the total carbon footprint per gallon of milk, which is huge.”...more

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