Op-Ed: Earth Day—Every Day NRCS Helps Farmers Protect Our Resources
By Jane Hardisty, Indiana NRCS State Conservationist
Earth Day is approaching and as we look to the future, we see a complex, changing world ahead of us.
Today, there are more than 7 billion people on our planet and 925 million of them are malnourished. The United Nations projects that we’ll have 3 billion more people on the planet in the next 90 years.
More and more farmland is disappearing each year here in Indiana and across the country. We are facing an altered environment—where climate change and threats to our air, water, soils and wildlife are real.
Because 70 percent of the land owned in the U.S. is privately owned (approximately 90 percent in Indiana), the fate of our natural resources is not going to be decided on public lands, but by millions of farmers, forestland owners, and ranchers making decisions every day. These landowners choose how to use the natural resources on their lands.
If you follow agricultural media you know we have a new Farm Bill. This bill sends a strong message about the importance of our natural resources by providing more dollars than ever for our nation’s agricultural and conservation efforts. Farm Bill programs help improve air quality and water quality, provide healthy plant and animal communities, ensure an adequate energy supply and sustain natural resources on working lands.
In Indiana, NRCS employees are working with farmers each day to help develop and carry out conservation plans and providing information about the various types of programs available. These employees are trained to understand the soil, water and related natural resources. They know what it takes to keep our drinking water clean, and more importantly they know how to keep our resources sustainable so that we can continue to feed a hungry planet and without destroying it.
I believe one of the best ways to improve and sustain our natural resources is to embrace soil health management practices such as cover crops, no-till and nutrient management. Soil health is not a new concept. In many ways, this system of practices simulates nature’s way of conserving and protecting this limited resource. For example, keeping soil covered at all times protects it from erosion and decomposing plants feed the soil with nutrients. Good soil health builds a resiliency in the soil that can weather the extremes of drought, storms, and heat. The environmental benefits of soil health practices are great, but even better farmers are seeing increases in production and ultimately to their bottom line.
Every day is Earth Day for NRCS. We are doing our part to help meet the challenges that lay ahead for our world by helping landowners take action to improve their land. I am so proud of our employees who have a passion for what they do and who work every day to make Indiana a great place to live!