Farm Horizons, April 2012

The low-tech world of environmental regulations

By Lori Brinkman, Assistant Carver County feedlot administrator

In this age of technology, I still enjoy settling into my easy chair in the evening and reading a good a newspaper or magazine.

There are no unexpected pop-ups, slow server connections, or battery malfunctions to deal with. Some may chuckle at that sentiment considering there are ways to deal with all of those issues, but sometimes it’s hard to break away from the familiar feel of me, my paper, and my chair. The other night it was the March issue of Farm Journal.

Articles on refuge management, global markets, global production, and herbicide resistance had my mind reeling, much more than recommended just one hour before bedtime.

Then, I came across an article which exposed the results of an informal opinion poll of agriculture’s leaders. Four bar graphs colorfully showed the results of four questions brought before this group of leaders.

One of the questions jumped at me from the page – what is the biggest issue facing the livestock industry? The results of the poll puzzled me. The answer was not backlash against big ag, trade policy constraints, or the price of feed. Even animal welfare issues were half as popular an answer as the number one choice among those polled. Environmental issues and regulations were the overwhelming concern of 52 percent of polled individuals. Wow!

Maybe I’m blinded by the government shroud I wear during my day job, but I would have never guessed environmental issues and regulations as the overwhelming concern among livestock industry leaders. Certainly, there are examples that come to mind regarding feedlot expansions and runoff issues, and obviously permitting and some regulations require more from larger scale or different types of operations, or from those situated in sensitive areas, but the entire livestock industry?

Instead of trying to understand the poll, my thoughts shifted to wondering what those agricultural leaders might have for ideas to solve this overwhelming issue facing livestock agriculture. I again paged through the magazine browsing an article providing a multitude of information on various planter wheel attachments, an advertisement for precision farming, and an article providing the intricate details of down pressure and creating the perfect microenvironment for each seed to get the best corn crop possible.

Considering the complexity of each of those subjects, confronting environmental regulations and issues again seemed to pale in comparison. Maybe the concern is not the environmental issues or regulations. Maybe it’s understanding the environmental issues facing livestock agriculture, and understanding why certain regulations have been developed. Again, I can only speculate. I haven’t had the opportunity to formally question the choices of those polled.

What’s important to consider however, is that there are a growing number of opportunities for livestock producers and livestock industry leaders to become involved in discussions regarding environmental issues being addressed in their states, counties, watersheds, or sub-watersheds.

The solution to some of these problems may not be in the low-tech world of regulations, but rather the high-tech world of agriculture. I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to get involved in environmental discussions to do so. There is a lot to be gained when we all understand the issues facing us and opportunities we have to address those issues.

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