A national holiday to recognize and celebrate agriculture producers who do plenty of good for wildlife, fish, and sportsmen
You may not know that each American farmer feeds more than 144 people, while growing fiber for our clothes and fuel for our cars. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack likes to point out that just three million U.S. farmers and ranchers grow freedom for 320 million Americans: Because of their abundance, the rest of us are untethered from the farm, free to pursue our dreams and passions. Earlier this month, Vilsack also said that “we are the greatest nation on earth, for one simple reason…because we have the greatest farmers.”
It’s an overwhelmingly patriotic, positive, and optimistic message—one that’s quite appropriate today on National Ag Day, “a day to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture.” Today we’d like to take a page from the Secretary’s book and point out some of the amazing reasons that sportsmen should celebrate America’s agricultural producers.
Farmers grow habitat.
Great hunting spots require purposeful management, and no one knows better how to manage the land than those who work it every day. Many farmers control for invasive species, maintain healthy wetlands and streams, and continually strive to improve their soil. Thoughtful ranching can create and sustain incredible grassland habitat. And timber forests, when they are properly harvested, can support wildlife in need of a wide range of cover and food.
Farmers help recover threatened species.
Just last week, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the Louisiana black bear was being removed from the endangered species list, thanks to two decades of hard work by farmers who restored difficult-to-farm cropland back into forested wetlands to create bear habitat. In 2015, we also learned that at least two other species wouldn’t be needing Endangered Species Act protection—the New England cottontail and the greater sage grouse—because of farmers, ranchers, and foresters who understand that for any landscape scale initiative to succeed private landowners need to lead the way.
Farmers provide access.
Over two-thirds of America’s land is in private hands. Unless you’re lucky enough to live near a great expanse of public land in the West (and even then), chances are you’ve knocked on your neighbor’s door once or twice to hunt their property. Chances are also good that your neighbor makes at least a partial living off their land. Whether you negotiatied access with a handshake and a six pack, or through a program like North Dakota’s PLOTS or Missouri’s MRAP, agricultural producers are often to thank for our quality days afield.
Farmers are sportsmen.
A 2015 survey of farmers showed that 83 percent of respondents hunt at least once a year. There are certain threats to wildlife and habitat from agriculture, but 87 percent of farmers surveyed agreed with the statement, “As a farmer, it is important to develop wildlife habitat to improve hunting opportunities.” Love of the land means farmers and sportsmen share common ground.
So, in honor of National Ag Day, say “thank you” to a farmer you know. And if that farmer is you, give yourself a pat on the back. We appreciate everything you do.