Thursday, April 22, is Earth Day. Cities and towns across the nation and world will conduct numerous environmentally oriented programs to raise awareness of the need to “save the planet.” You, as farmers and livestock producers, have been the leading stewards of the land since long before Earth Day became cool.

You and your fellow growers represent less than 2% of the U.S. population. Yet you produce enough food and fiber to feed the entire nation and much of the hungry world. At the same time, you’re doing it while saving soil, water and using fewer chemicals.

A few years ago, Corn & Soybean Digest contributing editor Kent Thiesse, former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now vice president of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN, pointed out how farmers care about the land by using sound conservation practices. He points out: since 1982, the soil erosion rate on U.S. cropland has been reduced by well over 40%; conservation tillage is now used on a major portion of all U.S. cropland; farm owners have enrolled tens of millions of acres in CRP; new wetlands are prevalent on farms nationwide; more than half of all U.S. producers intentionally provide habitat for wildlife; and each year farmers plant hundreds of thousands of trees through government tree planting programs.

Along with CRP, there are many other state agriculture and USDA programs that assist growers in improving their soil and water conservation. Many of you likely take advantage of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). It provides a voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality. EQIP offers financial and technical help to assist eligible participants install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land.

In many parts of the nation, growers regularly use erosion control programs to prevent soil from “blowing.” Wheat is among the most popular erosion-control cover crops to prevent the loss of soil in corn, soybean and cotton production. It all comes back to growers knowing that their farms can prosper only if the land is tilled (or no-tilled) in the most efficient way possible.

National Association of Wheat Growers and other agricultural commodity groups work to remind “city slickers” that tillers of the soil are also stewards of the soil. But it’s up to everyone involved in agriculture to stand up and remind others that we care about the land – that farmers and ranchers were the first “environmentalists.”

Happy Earth Day!