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Farmers and ranchers: America's first conservationists

Monday, February 7, 2011

Farmers and ranchers remain our nation's first conservationists. Nebraska's farmers and ranchers recognize the responsibility of good stewardship toward their land. However, they understand conservation not only applies to protecting their land, but to the animals in their care. Farmers and ranchers know producing safe, high quality foods requires careful and well-reasoned livestock practices. Because their livelihood depends on cultivating crops and livestock to develop our nation and feed the world, the success of any operation is tied directly to land quality and livestock well-being.

Livestock and poultry organizations already have adopted codes of conduct out of commonsense concern for animal well-being and food safety. However, restrictive and onerous government regulation, like the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to regulate methane under the Clean Air Act, adds cost, reduces efficiency, and puts another hurdle in front of farmers and ranchers. The burden of doing business forces small producers into tough decisions and associated costs are passed along to the consumer.

Modern animal agriculture is not an accident, and we must preserve sound, science-based animal husbandry practices. Improved housing, updated handling practices, and modernized health and nutrition products are the result of generations of investment and research into raising high quality animals.

Let's look at the facts about Nebraska's thriving agricultural sector, which is tremendously important to our economy. In 2009, our state ranked first in commercial red meat production and fourth in cash receipts from all livestock and livestock related products. We currently boast 6.2 million head of cattle, making us second in the nation; and 3.1 million hogs and pigs, placing us sixth. Further, Nebraska's dairy cows produce nearly 1.2 billion pounds of milk annually.

In 2008, the Nebraska livestock industry accounted for 48 percent of the state's total agricultural cash receipts; livestock or poultry operations could be found on 50 percent of Nebraska farms.

I will continue to work to promote practical policies which are not detrimental to our rural way of life and also protect and promote the safety of our nation's livestock.

Every day, Nebraska's farmers and ranchers provide for the needs and welfare of livestock and poultry. It's simple, really: produce high quality products depends on producing high quality, healthy animals.

The landscape of American agriculture continues to evolve, but the concern and care farmers and ranchers show their animals remains unchanged. Our producers continue to demonstrate they are dedicated to providing the highest quality, safest, and most affordable food in the world.

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U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith
Washington Report