By Brian Waddingham
On April 22, 2011 millions of people around the world celebrated the 41st anniversary of Earth Day. The idea behind the day began back in the 1960s, but Earth Day was not officially observed until 1970. Earth Day is certainly a deserving holiday that recharges and encourages us to honor the planet and all living things that inhabit it.
As an Iowan, it's easy to think that in this land of plenty, everyone has enough food to lead an active, healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, that's not the case. More than 50 million Americans don't have access to the food they need.
The situation doesn't seem to be improving either. There are more than 310 million people in the U.S. today and we rely on less than 2% of those people to feed us. Fortunately, the agriculture industry has an impressive story to share. We are using less land, water and energy to produce crops and livestock than ever before.
Livestock account for less than 3% of greenhouse gas emissions
Today, one American farmer produces enough food for 155 people. Only a few decades ago, that number was only 26. While farmers are increasing their efficiency and decreasing their environmental footprint, they are also focusing on improving the land they will pass on to future generations.
Experts estimate global food production will need to more than double by the year 2050 to feed a growing world population. Many of those experts also agree that U.S. livestock production practices are an environmentally sustainable solution for producing crops and livestock and that U.S. livestock production should be considered a model for the rest of the world. Thanks to smart practices, raising livestock in the U.S. accounts for less than 3% of this country's total greenhouse gas emissions. (tinyurl.com/5t7cqle)
Providing healthy, nutritious products to people around the world
Farmers work hard to provide healthy and nutritious food and other products to people around the world while efficiently using their resources and providing the finest care possible for their livestock. Their history with the land and their animals dates back hundreds of years, long before it became "hip" to celebrate Earth Day. Farmers follow strict rules and regulations to protect our environment by safeguarding rivers and streams, managing the land and soil and keeping our air clean. (tinyurl.com/5vwobwb)
Each year as we celebrate Earth Day, I encourage everyone to take a minute and consider how fortunate we are to have access to safe, wholesome and affordable food. Can you think of any other example where the work of so few benefits so many? While millions celebrated Earth Day on April 22, 2011 crop and livestock farmers celebrate it every day. For Iowa's livestock farmers, environmental responsibility isn't just a job, it's a way of life.
Waddingham is executive director of the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers.