By: Sen. Pat Roberts & Rep. Michael Conaway
Editor’s Note: On this Earth Day, we are pleased to publish an editorial from the chairmen of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees celebrating the efforts of America’s farmers and ranchers in protecting our natural resources.
We’ve all heard it said: farmers are the original environmentalists. We say that because American farmers and ranchers were taking care of their land long before anyone told them to do so. Why? They have the most at stake. If they do not take care of their land, the land will not take care of them. They also know that leaving the land in better shape than they found it is the key to passing their farms and ranches down to the next generation.
While farmers and ranchers have an innate desire and natural incentive to conserve, it’s also true that they have been called on to feed an ever-increasing population. We are under no illusions: feeding the 7 billion people that currently inhabit this planet places tremendous stress on our environment that will only grow as we add another 2-3 billion people over the next few decades. In response to this reality, we are faced with two choices: we can work with our nation’s farmers and ranchers in helping them meet this challenge by funding innovative research and sharing in the cost of both time-tested and cutting edge conservation practices, or we can thank them for feeding the world by regulating them into oblivion.
The Agriculture Committees, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and numerous farm groups and conservation organizations have long chosen the first option. For decades, they have worked collaboratively with our nation’s farmers and ranchers to implement voluntary, incentive-based conservation practices that have drastically reduced soil and water erosion and provided critical wildlife habitat among a host of other environmental benefits.
In a bewildering contrast, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with a few extreme environmental groups, continue to take the latter approach, undermining the hard work of USDA and others while denigrating our farmers and ranchers in the process. While USDA continues the work of stabilizing stream banks and incentivizing conservation tillage practices, a sampling of the thousands of practices they deploy each year, EPA continues churning out more unfunded regulatory mandates while deploying illegal lobbying tactics to generate support. If that weren’t bad enough, they recently stooped to new lows, funding billboards that attack farmers and ranchers. Their actions are adding tremendous financial strain to our producers while driving up the cost of food for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. Their actions are shameful and do a disservice to the proud conservation legacy of this country.
While we were both blessed to grow up in rural America, neither of us grew up on a farm. But in our years of working with American farmers, we have learned that they are natural allies in the fight to preserve the natural resources of this land we love. They are not our enemies and it’s time that our nation’s regulatory agencies stop treating them as such.
Despite all the daily regulatory challenges, farmers continue to do amazing things and with less resources. Those accomplishments should be celebrated, not demonized.
The importance of conserving our natural resources and maintaining the productive capacity of our nation’s farms and ranches should be areas where lawmakers can find consensus. We’re proud to represent farmers and ranchers every day in our nation’s capital. Keep up the good work this Earth Day and every day.
Rep. Michael Conaway represents the 11th District of Texas and currently serves as the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. Sen. Pat Roberts represents the state of Kansas and serves as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry.