Some people have the mistaken idea that farmers and ranchers are harming our environment. You hear it everywhere?at the coffee shop, church, public forums, even in the grocery store where people buy the food farmers and ranchers produce for us to eat.
Children arrive home from school and tell parents about harmful practices farmers are using on the land. It?s easy to understand why folks think the way they do about today?s agriculture.
Few businesses are as open to public scrutiny as a farm or ranch in the United States today. While farming and ranching practices occur in the open where anyone can see, the only picture many have of agriculture is what they read in newspapers or see on television. Even fewer people have set foot on a modern farm.
The fondest wish of most farmers and ranchers is to pass their land on to their children. They work years to leave a legacy of good land stewardship. Most farmers learned about conservation and respect for the land from their parents.
Today?s farmers and ranchers are doing their part to protect and improve the environment. They use such agricultural practices as early planting, pest control, good soil fertility, conservation tillage and many other innovations that help grow more food while protecting the environment.
Farmers adjust practices to meet individual cropping conditions. Such practices can vary from farm to farm?even from field to field.
As in any other business, farmers and ranchers must manage their operations on a timely basis and use all the technology available to improve quality and productivity. If they don?t, they will not be able to stay in business for long.
Today?s farmer has cut chemical usage by about 40 percent in many cases during the last couple of decades. Many no longer apply chemicals before planting. Instead, as the crop matures, farmers gauge potential weed pressure and apply herbicides only if needed.
Throughout the growing season, farmers do their best to provide nutritious, healthy food. From planting through harvest, they battle weather, weeds, insects and disease. Efficiency is their best defense against change including unstable world markets, political barriers and fringe groups who may attack their farming methods, yet know little about this vital profession.
Mike and Patty Hipp operate a dryland farming and cow-calf business in Barton County. This family-based operation has emphasized conservation practices for three generations.
They employ 100-percent no-till farming practices with crop rotation. The Hipps use wheat, milo, soybeans, alfalfa, sunflowers, corn and feed in their rotation and have recently begun to use cover crops to minimize soil loss, add nutrients and increase soil structure. The cow-calf operation employs rotational grazing to ensure sufficient annual grass recovery and a good calving environment.
Conservation range management techniques such as tree and brush treatment and broadleaf weed control are also used to ensure pasture health. Feeding areas are located away from creeks and ponds to prevent drainage of wastes into these areas.
The Hipps were honored as the Natural Resources award winners at the recent Kansas Farm Bureau annual meeting.
Yes, farmers and ranchers like the Hipps and their counterparts across Kansas must live in the environment they create. They can and will do more to improve their environment by relying less on herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers.
Agricultural producers can also conserve more water, plug abandoned wells, monitor grassland grazing and continue to implement environmentally sound techniques that will ensure preservation of the land.
In the meantime, farmers and ranchers will continue to take their stewardship seriously. They?ve devoted their lives to safeguarding their farms and families, while providing us with the safest food in the world.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.