A coalition of 21 agricultural groups announced Farmers for a Sustainable Future at a Capitol Hill press conference on Wednesday to demonstrate their commitment to environmental and economic sustainability.
The coalition will serve as a resource for policy makers, the media and the public in discussions on climate, Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation president, said during the conference. The conference was available to media via phone.
Agriculture has a great story to tell about using technology and innovation, and the coalition is a tremendous tool to advance sustainability and climate-smart farming, he said.
In two generations, U.S. farmers and ranchers have increased productivity by 270% using the same amount of resources and protecting air and water. They are using ethanol and biodiesel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 17 million cars on the road annually, he said.
They have also put 140 million acres of farmland — equal to the size of California and New York — into USDA conservation programs, he said.
“Farmers and ranchers have demonstrated a commitment to sustainability,” he said.
The coalition’s goal is to secure reasonable policies and strategies to protect resources for future generations, he said.
As the country moves forward on the climate issue, it’s important for agriculture to have a seat at the table to help shape policy, he said.
The groups, representing the majority of agriculture, are standing together to correct the false narrative about agriculture driven by media debate, said Ethan Lane, vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
The coalition wants to incentivize innovation and break down barriers to sustainability. It supports science-based research, resilient infrastructure and focusing on outcomes, he said.
Cattle producers are the original stewards of the land and care for 600 million acres in the U.S. They are committed to environmental, economic and social sustainability for future generations, he said.
The environmental footprint of the U.S. cattle industry is 10 to 50 times smaller than the rest of the world, and cattle producers are committed to continuous improvement, he said
“Our focus is on making sure the data is accurate … and making sure we engage and arm lawmakers with accurate information,” he said.
The coalition wants people to understand what agriculture is already doing and that it continues to improve, he said.
Farmers are masters of technology and innovation and have been successful in facing environmental challenges while increasing production, said Michael Formica, assistant vice president of the National Pork Producers Council.
Water use is down, nutrient levels are down, emissions are down and pork producers have and are investing in their environmental footprint, he said.
Producers have become more efficient through animal genetics, technology, animal husbandry, breeding, animal care, animal biosecurity and nutrition, he said.
It’s a strong story of how producers meet challenges and come out with more sustainable production, he said.
Representatives of the U.S. rice and cotton industries also spoke to the huge environmental strides their farmers have made and are making.
The coalition is an opportunity not only to show what has already been done but what farmers are committed to in the future, said Robbie Minnich, a National Cotton Council senior government relations representative.
The U.S. rice industry is also committed to the advancement of environmental goals, said Ben Mosley, vice president of USA Rice.