Promoting the story of advancements in agriculture

(Photo by Catrina Rawson)

Everyone is interested in what farmers are doing in their fields. Our story is one of achievement, community involvement, conservation and 69 years of continuous improvement. We should embrace it.

There is an increasing number of conservation practices on working farmland. We are also evaluating conservation practices’ return on investment. This information helps farmers make better decisions for each of their fields.

Agriculture’s track record is shown in the USDA Economic Research Service study, “A Look at Agricultural Productivity Growth in the United States, 1948-2017.” Productivity nearly tripled according to the report.

The study points out, “From 1948 to 2017, Total Factor Productivity (TFP) increased at an annual rate of 1.47%. This growth was made possible by a surge in total output at a growth rate of 1.53% per year while holding total inputs nearly constant; inputs increased at just 0.07% per year, even after accounting for changes in their quality. Agriculture stands out among U.S. industries, both because TFP growth is much higher than the average for all U.S. industries, and because input growth accounts for almost none of the output growth.”

The long-term trend for increased productivity is important for the next 69 years. As more companies are looking toward renewable resources, the most abundant resource is the agriculture production system. Continued advancements in automation, technology, science and our management skills are important to keeping the trend going.

Agriculture’s record of achievement is being called upon for climate solutions, too. The more circular economies, decarbonizing product streams and greenhouse gas sequestration are discussed, the more people look to farm fields.

The next farm bill is likely to have a provision that will streamline private sector providers’ ability to help farmers apply for conservation program cost-share funding as an option. Farmer-owned cooperatives like GROWMARK and the FS System have the working relationships to help address in-field challenges. Conservation cost-share programs are in demand and have more funding than at any time. Farmers can choose who they work with, and we can all work with the National Resource Conservation Service to advance conservation. We also need to help position farmers to take advantage of programs that incentivize carbon sequestration.

The subject of greenhouse gas emissions can quickly get a conversation started and can typically be in support of or opposition-based. What if farmers approached the subject with the statement, “We can reduce them.” Let’s consider focusing on what agriculture can do voluntarily and incentive-based, and tout our achievements. Be more vigilant in data collection by recording field practices now.

Build your conservation resume on the data systems you use today and consider how you can team up with service providers that will help develop a new revenue stream crediting what you do in each one of your fields. A terrific addition to the continually increasing productivity of agriculture is the potential to increase revenue from taking credit for achievements you do in each field.

Chuck Spencer serves as GROWMARK’s executive director of governmental relations.

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