By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief - bio | email
When it comes to protecting the land and water, farmers may be the original environmental stewards.
"Every farmer's goal is to pass on what he has to the next generation," Travis Rainforth said.
Farmers are always thinking about the future, sowing seeds to be harvested later.
That's true of Rainforth, trying to farm in a way that protects the land.
He said, "If we don't take care of it, it won't be as valuable to the next generation, it won't be as productive to the next generation if we don't take care of stuff."
Sustainability is a buzzword in agriculture and takes on many forms.
Rainforth said, "Ranchers and rangeland and putting in things like rotational grazing, farmers putting buffer strips on their ground, help clean the groundwater."
No state irrigates like Nebraska and conservation minded farmers use moisture monitors.
"Some of the probes I use even tell you how much fertilizer is there, so it'll help make sure you're not over-applying," Rainforth said.
Genetically modified crops have many critics. But some environmentalists have embraced GMOs, because biotechnology allows farmers to grow more with less.
Rainforth said, "You look at what farmers use today for inputs, in terms of chemicals and fertilizers, we're doing so much more on less than 30 years ago.
"There's another driving factor for farmers like Travis, and that's the bottom line."It costs me money to pump water, it costs me water to go out and spray chemicals and fertilizer down," he said.
Nebraska Farm Bureau cites a study that shows hog farmers have reduced their carbon footprint 35 percent in the last 30 years. For crops, precision technology allows farmers to vary the amount of water and fertilizer throughout the field, using less where less is needed.
Rainforth said, "I don't use any more inputs than I have to, because it's the responsible thing to do, from a money standpoint and ecological standpoint."
While technology has enabled farmers to do more in terms of conservation, they say the government continues to overreach with more environmental regulation.