Feed Bites

U.S. Agriculture: A Legacy of Sustainability and Growth

Written by: Sarah Novak   |   May 9, 2024

Sustainability, Growth, USSA, Policy, Water, Climate Commitment, Feed Industry

The American Feed Industry Association recently joined the U.S. Sustainability Alliance (USSA), which is a group of associations across the farming, fisheries and forestry industries. USSA was founded in 2013 and advocates for sustainable U.S. food and agricultural production, while supporting producers through global promotion of sustainable products and sharing of knowledge for optimal use of natural resources.

I recently received their newsletter, which included a link to a report by USSA, detailing how long the U.S. agriculture community has been involved in sustainability. Although some might consider this a relatively new phenomenon, those of us in agriculture and forestry have long been aware of its history. But would you have guessed that it dates back to 1871? I was certainly surprised.

The U.S. agriculture sector is an integral part of the nation's landscape, literally and figuratively. Spanning across millions of acres, farms, ranches and forests are not just food sources but also stewards of our natural environment. Despite popular myths of agriculture being big “bad” corporate-run farms, these lands are often family-run enterprises (97% according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture!) that prioritize sustainable practices. Historical milestones, like the creation of the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries back in 1871, highlight a long-standing commitment to conservation, long before it became a buzzword.

Here’s a few other highlights I gleaned from the report:

The Science and Policy of Soil Health

Soil isn't just dirt; it's a living, breathing foundation essential for healthy ecosystems and agriculture. After the Dust Bowl's harsh lessons, U.S. policies, like the Soil Conservation Act of 1935, galvanized efforts to protect this vital resource. Today, USDA initiatives employ modern science and robust funding to enhance soil health across the country, ensuring that it remains a potent ally against climate change and biodiversity loss.

Water Sustainability: Crafting the Future Drop by Drop

Water management is another testament to U.S. leadership in environmental stewardship. Starting with the Federal Water Pollution Control Act in 1948 and evolving into today's Clean Water Act, the focus has consistently been on maintaining the purity and availability of water. These efforts are supported by extensive programs that offer both financial and technical assistance to ensure that water conservation measures are both effective and widespread.

Climate Commitment: Innovating Toward a Better Tomorrow

Facing today’s climate challenges, the U.S. has not shied away from ambitious measures. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, among other initiatives, pumps research dollars into climate-smart agriculture, aiming to reduce emissions while boosting sustainable farming practices. These efforts reflect a broader commitment to harnessing innovation and policy in tandem to craft a more sustainable future for all.

The Feed Industry Is Doing It’s Part

At the American Feed Industry Association, we are working with all of the industry players to do our parts as well. We envision a healthier word through advanced animal nutrition. The industry is working to help improve feed efficiency, upcycling ingredients for animal food that people view as waste (did you know that 40% of U.S. feed ingredients come from other industries!). Our members are also developing innovative ingredients that can potentially decrease the environmental footprint of livestock and poultry.

Although I didn't grow up on the Novak family farm in southwestern Wisconsin, the land that my grandparents worked on is still in our family today—it's been passed down through at least three generations. I hope that with the practices they're implementing, it will continue to be preserved for future generations. I know that’s what every farmer, rancher, fisher or forester wants for their legacy.

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