"Living green" is a current emphasis that is really a good idea. Those things we can do to save energy, improve our environment, recycle various products and provide an abundant food supply will benefit all of us.
Let me suggest that farmers in our area and across the United States are among the first to "go green." For decades they have been following practices that have been saving our soil, producing more with less, saving energy, improving water quality, helping increase our wildlife and providing us with quality, safe foods.
Take a look at what farmers have done. In the last 40 to 50 years, dairy farmers have produced 50 percent more milk from 50 percent fewer cows. In so doing, they have saved our environment by producing less livestock waste and fewer air emissions. Through improved feeding, breeding and management programs, dairy farmers have increased their efficiency by enough to need only 50 percent of the cows we had in 1960 to produce all the milk we need today. And we export 10 to 15 percent of our milk in various products. Yes, dairy farmers have been using "green" practices for years.
Back in the 1930s and 40s, soil erosion rates up to 40 tons an acre created situations like the dust bowl in the West. Today farmers are adopting a variety of new tillage techniques - no till, low till and ridge till. These practices along with cover crops and wind breaks have reduced erosion to a minimum and have helped enrich the soil. Great ways to "go green!"
New farming practices are reducing the impact farming has on our nation's water quality. Farmers have become more efficient by using technology for precise crop health practices and tools. This new technology means producing more food with less seed and smaller doses of fertilizer and chemicals. Because this means less waste, farmers are keeping our rivers, lakes and streams cleaner.
Farmers have also helped improve our water supply by building thousands of farm ponds over the years. Engineering help was available from the former Soil Conservation Service, and farmers saw the need for water conservation so they built these many ponds. They are also used in various ways, some for livestock water, some for an emergency supply for fire control and some for recreation.
In just six years, from 1997 to 2003, farmers produced a net increase of 263,000 acres of wetlands, a green practice considered very important by some.
Through various reforestation programs that farmers have used, we actually have more trees and woodlots in this country today than 50 years ago. For many years, farmers have taken advantage of low-cost reforestation tree planting programs with the resulting growth of forests.
Since we are producing more food on fewer acres, this leaves more space for wildlife habitat. If today's farmers used the same methods that Grandpa used, the United States would have to more than double the number of acres used for farming. Today's efficient use of farm land is saving millions of acres upon which wildlife live and thrive. This, by the way, is also a concern to farmers because they experience millions of dollars in wildlife damage to crops each year.
We've often pointed out that one farmer today produces enough to feed 143 people in the U.S. and abroad. In 1960, they produced enough for just 46 people.
Yes, farmers have been using "living green" practices for years. "Living green" is not new to them. We should be thankful for what they have done and are still doing for us.
Parker grew up in Trumbull County, is retired from The Ohio State University and works with the local Farm Bureau Board.