Modern farmers, getting it done

Producing more with less. Sustaining Innovation. America’s corn farmers are doing this day in and day out, year after year. Jeff Gunderson, in his editorial, paints the picture that organic farming is the only way to help ecosystems and economics downstream. While I have no doubt that organic farming may accomplish this, one also needs to realize that today’s modern agricultural practices are leading us to the same goals.

Take for instance:
• Farmers grow 5 times more corn on 20% less acres
• Farmers have cut soil erosion by 44%
• Farmers have cut water use by 27% and energy use by 37% over the last 2 decades
• Farmers have cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30% over the last 20 years

Farmers have accomplished these feats by adopting precision farming and conservation tillage practices such as no-till and strip till. They have planted filter strips around fields. They are utilizing the latest irrigation practices such as deficit irrigation or adopting the use of drip irrigation to become more efficient for every drop of water.

What has been the result of the many practices adopted by today’s farmers? The hypoxia zone in the Gulf of Mexico has shrunk by more than half in 2009; data that Mr. Gunderson failed to quantify. Yes, the hypoxia zone was reduced by over 62% in 2009 to 3,000 square miles according to university and government agencies. And according to a US Geological Survey associate director, the spring nutrient load transported to the Gulf is about 11 percent less than the average of the last 30 years.

The debate shouldn’t be one farming practice over another. It will take all practices to continue to feed a growing world population that is projected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, with these practices leading to consumer choices. America’s corn farmers understand the task ahead of them and have no doubt that they can feed, fuel and provide fiber for this growing population in a sustainable manner.

Op / Ed, August 17, 2010
Kelly Brunkhorst

Director of Research

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