Farming & Ranching Today

Do you have questions about the way your food is grown and raised today?
Get answers to your questions below or contact a farmer who lives and works in your community!

Q: What are farmers doing to protect the environment?

A: An increasing number of farmers and ranchers are working to make their operations more recyclable and self-sustaining. This means doing more to reuse materials on the farm, minimize waste and reduce the need to bring in energy from outside sources.

The conservation practices used by crop and livestock farmers have drastically reduced soil erosion and kept nutrients out of our lakes and streams. Soil erosion in the U.S. has dropped by over 40 percent the past 20 years and several major conservation practices are used on Nebraska farms (terraces, grassed waterways, contour farming, contour strip-cropping, no-till, mulch-till and conservation reserve program) are estimated to remove up to 38 percent of total nitrogen and 58 percent of the phosphorus that otherwise would be present in our water.

Many farms today are capturing and reusing water used in raising animals and growing crops. They’re creating closed-loop systems by using animal manure as fertilizer on crops. On some farms this is a self-contained cycle, while on others it represents an arrangement between crop farmers and animal ranchers.

Nebraska’s crop farmers also lead the nation in acres devoted to grassy buffer strips in and around their fields, which reduce soil and nutrient runoff. Wetlands supply a life-sustaining habitat for hundreds of species, help reduce erosion and buffer towns and cities from floods and storm surges.

Modern barns help livestock farmers do their part to protect the environment. Livestock manure is used as a valuable, organic fertilizer for crops. The vast majority of Nebraska hog farmers store manure in pits, which prevents possible run-off as a result of rainfall. The more traditional feedlot farms of long ago were more susceptible to runoff during a heavy rainfall.

Some innovative ranches around the state are working on methane digesters that can capture methane gas as manure breaks down. It is then turned into electricity that can power farms or even be sold back to the community power grid.

Efficiently managing resources, harnessing natural processes and reducing waste have always been part of what successful farmers and ranchers do. Farmers and ranchers understand the importance of protecting our environment because they raise their families on the land. Their children drink the same water and breathe the same air as the rest of us. They also understand that we all live in a watershed and that protecting water quality is everyone’s responsibility. Moving forward, they will continue to find ways to reuse and recycle as much as possible and invest it right back into farms.

Sources: Field to Market, The Keystone Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance and U.S. Department of Natural Resources.

Q: Why do farmers need to protect their crops?

A: Around the world, 20 to 40 percent of the potential crops are destroyed each year because of weeds, bugs and diseases. Farmers and ranchers have many ways to protect their crops from weeds, bugs and diseases to help them thrive by using pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

But overusing these crop protections is not good for farms, business or the environment. That's why farmers take advantage of sophisticated ways to understand the precise amount of these inputs a field needs.

Farms use soil testing, not just on a field, but on different parts of a field, and apply exactly the right amount - or none at all - at exactly the right time and at the right place so that crops can survive and thrive.

Source: U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance

Q: How do biotech seeds affect nutrition?

A: As more and more people ask questions about how we as a society grow and raise food, it's perhaps a good time to take a look at the context. In the middle of the last century, people became concerned about how we would be able to feed and nourish the growing population, especially in poor and developing countries.

At the same time, consumers were becoming increasingly worried about the impact of farming on the environment. Concerns grew about things like the use of water, the need for chemicals to protect plants from bugs and weeds and soil run off.

Researchers at agricultural universities began exploring better ways to raise food. Some of what they came up with included biotech seeds to create crops that solve nutritional deficiencies. For example, they created genetically altered "golden rice," which produces beta-carotene that has the potential to help upwards of 250 million children each year who go blind as a result of vitamin A deficiency.

Researchers also created seeds that grow into plants less susceptible to drought, so farmers could grow food in more arid conditions. Some of the biotech seeds they created grow into plants that are more resistant to pests. These crops require fewer pesticides.

Source: U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance

Q: Why is it necessary to improve upon past and current farming practices?

A: In order to meet the food, fiber and energy needs of a growing world – while protecting the environment – farmers and ranchers will need to continue to embrace responsible technology and innovation. According to the United Nations, there are over 1 billion hungry people in the world right now, and farmers will have to produce 70 percent more food for an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050 for a total of 9 billion people in the world. While feeding all of those people will be a challenge, farmers are moving in the right direction. Thanks to better technology and generations of experience, today each American farmer produces enough food in a year to feed 155 people, compared to just 26 people in 1960.

Sources: American Farm Bureau, United Nations

Q: How do farmers care for their animals?

A: Farming isn’t just a job; it’s a family-based lifestyle. Farmers and ranchers treat their animals with care and respect because it’s the right thing to do; farm families enjoy the same food they produce for all of us and expect nothing less. Today’s livestock farmers are investing more than ever before in preventative care for their animals, following the recommendations of their veterinarians.

Farmers and ranchers are committed to the safest and most appropriate care for their animals. They are tightening standards and implementing training programs to ensure that everyone on farms and ranches knows the right thing to do, and more importantly, understands the consequences of doing the wrong thing. 

Many farmers and ranchers choose to raise their animals in modern barns, which protect them from predators, disease, extreme climates and each other. These barns are warm, well-lit and scientifically designed for the specific needs of the animal.

Farmers and ranchers are tightening standards and training programs to ensure that everyone on farms and ranches knows the right thing to do, and more important, knows the consequences of doing the wrong thing. They are also implementing stricter penalties when unsafe or dangerous practices are uncovered.

Sources: U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance

Q: How are farmers working to prevent antibiotic resistance?

A: Farmers and ranchers across the country hear your concerns about antibiotics and are committed to responding. In particular, we heard your concerns about antibiotic resistance in humans. Although there isn't any link to antibiotic use in farm animals creating resistance in humans, we too are concerned about any potential for this to happen.

That is why farmers and ranchers are looking for the best ways to care for animals that keep them healthy. In addition, the industry as a whole is studying ways to keep reducing the likelihood of antibiotic resistance in the future.

Farmers and ranchers are also investing heavily in research to arrive at alternatives. For example, this includes working with scientists and researchers to explore more antibiotics that can be effectively applied to animals but are significantly different from those that would ever be used to treat humans.

Source: U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance

Q: Why do some farmers use hormones and growth promotants?

A: Hormones have been used by American farmers and ranchers since the 1950s. They're used in countries like Canada, Argentina, New Zealand and many others across the developed world. They're used under the guidance of veterinarians and animal nutritionists and given to animals only in targeted ways - in very low doses and at particular times in the animal’s life.

Over the past several decades, they've been studied heavily. We've been able to look closely to monitor any impact they have in the short and long term. Studies have shown that horomones pose no risk to consumers. Hormones are present in our food even with animals that haven't been given growth-hormones. They occur naturally in farm animals like dairy cows and in some produce, conventional and organic.

Many consumers have questions about hormone use in raising livestock in America. Farmers and ranchers are committed to sharing information and answering questions about hormone use so consumers can make knowledgeable choices about their food.

Source: U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance

Q: Do we still have family farms?

A: Today, 98 percent of all farms in the U.S. are family farms (owned by individuals, family partnerships or family corporations), and the vast majority of U.S. agricultural products sold are produced on those farms. Farming today may look different than it did in years past, but family farmers’ commitment to animal care, environmental protection and healthy, nutritious food remains the same. The last Census of Agriculture showed that the number of farms in Nebraska (and their operators) are becoming more diverse. For example, the number of female farmers (principal operators) in Nebraska rose from 2 percent to 19 percent since the last census.

Source: 2007 Census of Agriculture

Q: What percentage of the population farms?

A: Less than 2 percent of the U.S. population farms and less than 5 percent of the Nebraska population farms. Those farmers are charged with feeding their communities, our country and our world.

Source: 2007 Census of Agriculture

Q: How do farmers contribute to their communities?

A: Crop and livestock farmers are valuable members of their communities. They’re active in their local schools, churches and civic groups. They also breathe life into rural communities by sending their children to local schools and providing a customer base for local businesses. One in four Nebraskans are directly or indirectly employed by agriculture according to a 2005 economic contribution analysis by the Chuck Lamphear Nebraska Policy Institute.

Q: How are farmers playing a role in our energy future?

A: Nebraska is a leader in renewable energy production, and farmers play a critical role in the state’s production. Nebraska is ranked second in the nation in ethanol production.

Q: In which commodity areas does Nebraska rank first nationally?

A: Nebraska ranks first in national commercial red meat production, great northern bean production, irrigated land harvested and popcorn production. Nebraska’s top 10 leading commodities (in order of importance) for 2010 cash receipts are cattle and calves, corn, soybeans, hogs, wheat, dairy products, chicken eggs, hay, dry beans and potatoes, which represent 98 percent of the state’s total cash receipts.

Sources: January 2013 - Nebraska Department of Agriculture, USDA, NASS, Nebraska Field Office, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

Still have questions about the way your food and energy are grown/raised today? Ask a farmer who works and lives in your community! 

5225 South 16th Street, Lincoln, NE 68512
P.O. Box 80299, Lincoln, NE 68501-0299
: (800) 742-4016 or (402) 421-4400
: (402) 421-4439