How Conservation Tillage Helps the Environment

It seems like every day there’s a new claim out saying farmers hurt the environment.

We know that’s not true. Farmers, of all stripes, use a variety of tools to guarantee they’re farming with as sustainably as possible.

Some farming practices, like conservation tillage, have even improved the environment.

corn field“In 1970s, there was a revolution in agriculture. A real conversion from conventional intensive systems to a system that was more in tune with nature — conservation tillage,” Richard Fawcett, a retired Iowa state agronomy professor said.

Thanks to herbicides, like atrazine and glyphosate, farmers don’t have to disturb the soil with tillage or plowing.

No-till has a number of environmental benefits:

  • Less soil erosion: Conservation tillage dramatically reduces erosion and soil runoff. According to the Conservation Technology Information Center at Perdue University, “Depending on the amount of residues present, soil erosion can be reduced by up to 90% compared to an unprotected, intensively tilled field.”
  • Cleaner water: The EPA says erosion and soil run off is the most significant pollutant of American waterways, so by reducing it we also improve our water quality.No till corn farming saves 150 million tons of topsoil every year – the equivalent of 5 million worth of dump trucks filled with soil. That’s soil that is now staying on the farm instead of running off into water.
  • Healthier soil: When soil is tilled, carbon is released into the atmosphere. No-till agriculture keeps that soil in the ground. As farmer Brian Scott explains, ”Tillage disrupts the natural structure of soil and releases some of the carbon soil organisms thrive on.  Soil biology plays an important role in providing crops with the water and nutrients they need.”
  • Less air pollution: When farmers don’t have to plow, they use less fuel. Conservation tillage saves an average of 3.5 gallons of fuel/per acre.
  • More wildlife: Conservation tillage, enabled by herbicides, helps to make great habitats for birds, aquatic creatures and small animals.Soil runoff in water harms aquatic habitats by undermining food chains. The lack of sunlight makes it hard for plants and algae to grow, denying fish a source of food.No-till land is also great for birds and small mammals that can make homes there.“There’s been an explosion in wildlife. With conservation tillage, with no-till we actually use our land for a dual purpose. We can efficiently provide food and fuel and fiber and also provide wildlife habitat,” Fawcett said.

With all the great benefits of no-till it’s good to know the practice is growing. In the U.S., no-till farming is now increasing about 1.5% each year. In 2009, more than a 1/3 of farms in the U.S. had some no-till fields.

So next time someone asks about herbicides or environmental affect of farming, you can talk about conservation tilling: a farming practice that’s improving the environment.

 

Elizabeth Held is a director at the White House Writers Group, where she advises food and agriculture clients. 

There’s a time and a place for everything – insight on the #AgChat & #AgVocate hash tag

There’s a time and a place for everything – insight on the #AgChat & #AgVocate hash tag

“There’s a time and a place for everything,” was a comment my mother often made. This statement has magically become one of my popular pieces of advice for my three boys. A perfect example is the time my youngest son and I were waiting in line to checkout at the grocery store. To make the time go faster, the woman in front of us struck up a conversation with my son. They began talking about his lambs. She asked him to share their names and what he will do with his pets. He quickly corrected her and explained, “that we will be probably be eating the lambs,” and went into much more detail. The woman’s tongue became temporarily frozen as she finished the transaction and quickly left without an opportunity for my explanation. Based on the woman’s reaction, I feared we would be met by the Department of Child Welfare once we arrived home.

He was truthful, frank and did accurately describe our intentions for the lambs. He shared the information with pride because of the time and care he has taken to ensure the lambs were treated humanely and to the best of our ability. If we had been sitting with family around the television on Sunday afternoon, the conversation would have been completely normal. The right place and the right time.

The grocery store check-out line was neither the right time nor place to be discussing his ‘pets.’

What determines the right time or place?

Generally speaking, the audience. The woman sharing the grocery line was not the right audience to be sharing as detailed information at that point in time.

The same can be said for the use of the term agvocate. People who are outside of the agriculture industry have been known to comment that the word includes a typo. It’s not a familiar term to them and carries very little value. Social media profiles used across multiple platforms are required to fit into a small set of characters. When working with limited characters, every word counts and must include words which clearly connect with your intended audience.

I’m proud to be an agvocate

In my years at the AgChat Foundation, I’ve met many farmers, ranchers and agriculturalists who are proud agvocates – and rightfully so. Whether you are first generation ranchers or seventh, there is pride in what you do. It’s an inherited gift we all share and should continue to celebrate, among the right audience.

My intended audience includes a targeted group of people, generations removed from the farm who share common interests such as the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, home renovation, hunting/fishing and parents of all boys. It’s a crowd which has no connection to the term AgVocate, so I choose to avoid using the word with my communication to this audience. It is simply not the right place.

It is also not useful to include the #AgChat hash tag when I’m trying to reach beyond the choir. Moms of boys and St. Louis Cardinal fans are not searching for AgChat, most will use hash tags such as #boymom, #momofallboys, #StlCards, #GoCards, etc…

If your intended audience is other farmers and ranchers telling their stories, then the use of the #AgChat and #AgVocate hash tags will likely draw the attention of those individuals.

How do I determine which hash tags to use to reach my intended audience?

This is fully dependent upon your target audience. Visit our blog post, “Non-Ag Hash Tags You Should Watch,” for suggestions and ideas of useful non-agriculture hash tags.

My mother also told me, “choose your words wisely,” and I’m often reminded that not only is there a time and place for everything, we need to pause and think of what we say, or type, before we speak or push the enter key.

After all, we want to engage with our audiences and inform them where we can; not leave them more confused that when we started the conversation.

written by Jenny Schweigert

 _______________________________________________________

Uniting Bee Health

One of the many misconceptions of agriculture pertains to the wonderful world of honey bees. Farmers are continuously dealt increasingly, challenging playing cards including weather, lower prices for their products and increased expenses. Its important that the general public understand that despite these steep challenges, farmers and ranchers continue to place priority on stewardship for the land and other assets such as bees. Assets such as honey bees and other pollinators are an absolutely necessity in the world of farming and ranching.

The Feed A Bee initiative brought together more than 70 partners pledging thousands of acres of land to A portion of a honey bee colony at the Bayer Bee Care Center in North Carolina. AgChat.orgincrease forage for pollinators, including nearly two dozen individual growers and family-owned farms who committed to converting acres of their land to pollinator havens.

It is also essential that farmers and ranchers understand the concerns shared by moms, dads and the general public. In a partnership with Bayer Bee Care, the AgChat Foundation will bring together farmers, ranchers, agriculturalists, moms, dads, dietitians, chefs and more to discuss the issue of bee health. This joint conversation will occur on Twitter using the #AgChat handle on Tues., Feb. 2.

“Everyone has a connection with the honey bee. They work hard to pollinate many of the foods we eat every day. We’re looking forward to opening up this conversation with the AgChat community to discuss the important role of bees on the farm and in our backyards.” – Dr. Becky Langer, Manager of the North America Bayer Bee Care Program

In addition to the Feed a bee program, Bayer CropScience has a unique partnership with an up and coming cartoon character, Vitamin Bee, who offers appeal to children.

“Vitamin Bee is all about educating kids about healthy eating and how bees are a vital part of getting the food we eat from farm to table. We’re so excited to connect our community of parents and teachers with the agricultural community on Twitter!” – Geoffrey Kater, Creator/CEO – Vitamin Bee, LLC

We invite you to join us on Twitter, 5-7pmPT/6-8pmMT/7-9pmCT/8-10pmET, as we discuss bee health, Feed A Bee and encouraging today’s youth to become involved with Vitamin Bee. You can join the conversation by following the #AgChat hashtag on Twitter. The discussion will provide useful tools for both the agriculture community and the general public.

For additional information on how to join this discussion, click here.

 

College Students Hone Agricultural Advocacy Skills at 2016 Collegiate Congress

College Students Hone Agricultural Advocacy Skills at 2016 Collegiate Congress

On April 2, 2016, with support from Dow AgroSciences, college students from across the country will convene at Dow AgroSciences in Indianapolis, Ind., for the AgChat Foundation’s 2016 Collegiate Congress [registration]. Participants will network with top-tier agricultural communicators, farmers and influencers while gaining the necessary tools to communicate their respective food system stories.

“The inaugural Collegiate Congress provided a solid framework as I strive to advocate for agriculture to my highest ability,” said Lexi Marek, 2015 Collegiate Congress alumna and 2016 Collegiate Congress planning committee member. “This event provides excellent networking with speakers and peers leading to future opportunities.”

Dow AgroSciences Supports The 2016 Collegiate Congress

Sessions will focus on strategic communication techniques, time prioritization and agricultural advocacy while expanding networks to incorporate consumer-facing messaging. Additionally, participants will learn about organizing on-campus events, digital content calendars and interacting with consumers.

“Our fast-paced society applauds short attention spans and convenience, which is vastly altering the way consumers receive information. This often leads to consumers’ fear-driven, perceived wants overriding scientific facts in regards to many aspects of the agricultural and food industries,” said Jenny Schweigert, AgChat Foundation executive director. “Collegiate Congress was established to equip young, agricultural leaders with the appropriate tools so they are not only able, but also prepared to connect beyond their typical networks.”

Early-bird registration, which includes a discounted rate, is open until March 1, 2016.

To learn more about the event or to inquire about sponsorship opportunities, contact Jenny Schweigert at execdir@agchat.org.

National Education Center for Ag Safety to Observe National Farm Safety & Health Week – Sept. 20-26

We are dedicated to providing resources to support your AgVocacy efforts, AgChat Foundation National Farm Safety and Health Week - Sept. 20-26, 2015is equally dedicated to doing our part to keep farmers and ranchers safe. Join us next week as we team with the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) at Northeast Iowa Community College’s (NICC) Pesto campus to provide safety awareness during National Farm Safety & Health Week, September 20-26. Below you will find their press release which details how you may join in the celebration. Please note, as part of the celebration next week’s #AgChat Twitter conversation will discuss safety and health on the farm, 7-9pmCT.

“The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) at Northeast Iowa Community College’s (NICC) Peosta campus will be sponsoring webinars in observance of National Farm Safety & Health Week, September 20 – 26.

The 2015 theme for National Farm Safety & Health Week is “Ag Safety is not just a slogan, it’s a lifestyle.” The webinars scheduled for each day of the week will be available at www.necasag.org, as well as more information and public service announcements related to this year’s theme.

This year the NECAS webinars, offered each day at noon, will cover the following themes:

  • Monday – Rural Roadway
  • Tuesday – Confined Spaces in Agriculture
  • Wednesday – Children’s Topics
  • Thursday – Health
  • Friday – Tractor Safety

NECAS also invites everyone to join them for ‘#AgChat,’ a Twitter conversation on Tuesday, Sept. 22, from 7-9 p.m. (CST)

The theme “Ag Safety is not just a slogan, it’s a lifestyle” reminds local and rural communities that agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S. and farm injuries and fatalities are preventable through education. The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor indicates that in 2013 farming accounted for 500 fatalities, or 23.2 deaths per 100,000 workers.

Each year since 1944, the third week of September has been recognized as National Farm Safety & Health Week. This recognition has been an annual promotion initiated by the National Safety Council and has been proclaimed as such by each sitting U.S. President since Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the first document. Over the years, the development and dissemination of National Farm Safety & Health Week materials shifted from the National Safety Council to NECAS. NECAS is the agricultural partner for the National Safety Council and has been serving the agricultural family and business community since 1997.

As we recognize National Farm Safety & Health Week this September, please join us in promoting safe and healthy practices on our farms and ranches across the U.S. and in our neighboring countries as producers enter the harvest season. NECAS welcomes the collaboration and participation of community members in this year’s observance, and would like to thank the Illinois Farm Bureau for its work in developing the “Ag safety is not just a slogan, it’s a lifestyle” logo this year.”

For more information, contact: Gloria Reiter, NECAS administrative assistant, at (888) 844-6322, ext. 371, or reiterg@nicc.edu; or Dan Neenan, NECAS director, at (888) 844-6322, ext. 248, or neenand@nicc.edu.AdditionalinformationaboutNECASisavailableat www.necasag.org.