Helping to reduce negative impact of agriculture production on the environment and to become more sustainable in the years ahead, farmers, ranchers, and researchers have been active in developing new technologies and better methods of farming and raising livestock for years.
It hasn't been easy. Better, more advanced methods and technology generally require additional investment, not an easy thing to ask of farmers and ranchers with the pressures associated with the recent market instability and the ever-rising cost of production.
Thanks to farm bill incentives and often federal grants and programs to supplement the flow of investment into conservation projects, sustainable agriculture has become an important issue across the industry. No-till farms and precision have contributed to the providing a more sustainable way to farm and ranch. Pesticide and fungicide use has declined and efforts are currently underway in multiple states to improve and reduce runoff and waste at livestock facilities. More is being done, including development of drought-tolerant crop varieties and more efficient irrigation systems.
According to USDA, more and more agricultural operations are investing in alternative energy sources such as solar panels to replace or supplement power from the grid, and, to a lesser extent, wind-powered generators small enough to power a single water pump or large enough to power a barn, an office or an entire farm.
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Coming soon, dairies and other large livestock operations, including feedlots, could convert methane gas from cow manure to provide heat and electricity, possibly enough to sell back to the grid.