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Scrutiny makes stewardship even more crucial

Few businesses are scrutinized as openly and thoroughly as farms and ranches in the United States. There’s a constant spotlight on agriculture, especially when it comes to the products and practices farmers are using to plant, feed, spray, spread and harvest. Often, the result of this scrutiny is a public perception developed and disseminated by those who have little or no knowledge of the industry. And that makes stewardship more important than ever.

Allison2Allison Jenkins is editor of Today’s Farmer magazine - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.At the recent 2024 Commodity Classic in Houston, Texas, I found stewardship was a common theme among the educational seminars, vendor presentations and trade show booths. The interesting thing about “stewardship” is that it can have many different meanings depending on who is promoting the concept or conducting the conversation.

For example, in exhibit space that literally covered an entire acre, John Deere featured its See & Spray technology, which uses computer vision and machine learning to target weeds in season. The technology promotes stewardship in several ways—using crop protection equipment more efficiently, combating weed resistance and reducing herbicide use.
Over at the United Soybean Board booth, Missouri farmer Neal Bredehoeft discussed opportunities with Farmers for Soil Health, one of the projects awarded grant funding under USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program. The initiative looks to increase cover crops by 1 million acres over 20 states, including Missouri, Iowa and Kansas.

The program is a prime example of stewardship in action.

“It may not be enough just to practice good stewardship. Producers need to promote what they’re doing to
take care of the air, water and land.”

For folks visiting Bayer at the show, a hot topic was the recent federal court ruling that vacated the registration of over-the-top dicamba products. During conversations with company representatives about the future of dicamba, stewardship was often mentioned in the context of responsible management to ensure continued access to the technology.

A main stage session led by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers highlighted research on the environmental benefits of precision agriculture. The study shows precision technology provides yield increases, fertilizer and pesticide reduction, fuel savings and better water usage. Each of those benefits is rooted in stewardship.

Farmers are stewards by nature. They have to be. The success and future of their operations depend on healthy, productive soils and clean, abundant water. However, in this era of increasing scrutiny, it may not be enough just to practice good stewardship. Producers need to promote what they’re doing to take care of the air, water and land as they produce food, feed, fiber and fuel for the world. Just like the examples from the Commodity Classic, stewardship underlies so much of today’s agricultural endeavors. Think about everything you do on your farm in the name of stewardship. Next time you’re confronted with negative opinions about agriculture, counter with that list. You just might shift the conversation in a positive direction.

CLICK TO READ the full April 2024 Issue of Today's Farmer magazine.

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