By Heather Hampton-Knodle
Like you, I wear many hats. In addition to being a mother and the president of a national association, American Agri-Women, I serve as the bookkeeper and compliance manager on the family farm that I operate alongside my husband and our four children.
We take our responsibility as stewards of the land seriously, and we work every day to leave our farm’s soil in better condition than the day before so that it can be fruitful for many generations to come. In fact, farming is truly an exercise in responsibility that I get to share with my children, the next generation of farmers, each and every day.
Did you know that pesticides are one of the most regulated industries in world? And that the U.S. has one of the most thorough and science-based review processes globally? This means that the process a pesticide product must go through to make it from the lab to the field involves hundreds of tests and the process will likely take more than 11 years!
The regulation process results in very specific directions for the use of each product we need to fight threats from pests and diseases to our crops, while keeping our family, neighbors and community safe. From pesticide applications to seed technology agreements, we carefully observe and document every activity that happens on our farm and in our business to ensure we are abiding by those regulations.
As a farmer, I care about the wellbeing of my community, pollinators, and wildlife. As a steward of the land, I base the decisions of how I farm on what will sustain my ability to grow crops and what practices will allow me and my family to farm the same land for decades to come. Part of that stewardship involves pesticide applications, and some of my neighbors have questioned whether the pesticides I use have an impact on the wildlife, specifically pollinators, in our area. This is a fair question and I understand why people may be concerned. I think it is important to understand that whether you are buying organic or non-organic, local or imported, your food has likely been grown with the help of pesticides.
While I cannot speak for every farmer, I can tell you that farmers care just as much about pollinators as their neighbors, which is why we work hard to ensure we avoid negative impacts to beneficial species, like bees and birds. Pollinators are vital to our farming operations. I prioritize the protection of their health and habitat, so they are safe to thrive and do their jobs. After all, scientists estimate that at least a third of our food wouldn’t exist without pollinators, and my family definitely likes to eat!
Fortunately, there are tangible steps we can take to balance pesticide use and protecting pollinators and other wildlife. On my farm, we are careful to apply pesticides only in target areas and as needed. Additionally, we only apply in certain conditions, such as when winds are low. These precautions prevent pesticides from inadvertently drifting where they’re not wanted, such as to neighboring farms or pollinator gardens.
When used responsibly, pesticides are amazing tools to help us meet the needs of a growing global population. Here are a few reasons you can feel better about pesticide’s role in our agricultural toolkits:
- Advanced technology and precision agriculture allows farmers to target specific areas of our fields for treatments rather than applying pesticides and fertilizers across entire fields. In addition to protecting local wildlife, this reduces farming’s environmental impact and helps meet the needs of a growing world without requiring additional land.
- Thanks to these advancements in farming technologies, total crop yields nearly tripled between 1948 and 2017.1 That’s good news, considering we’ll need to produce 70 percent more food by 2050 when the global population is expected to top 9.3 billion.2
- These farming practices help Americans enjoy a wide variety of foods at affordable prices, as the average U.S. family spends just over 10 percent of their disposable income on food.3
I am fortunate to have the privilege of working the land with my family every day. It’s not always easy; in fact, sometimes, it’s really hard. Still, it is always rewarding. When we produce a successful crop using sustainable practices that respect our local community, I know we are doing our part to be good stewards of the environment, and that’s one of my favorite hats to wear.
Heather Hampton-Knodle is an Illinois farmer and the president of American Agri-Women. Learn more about Heather’s family farm at https://watchusgrow.org/
blog/2020/03/05/look- agricultural-productivity- growth-united-states-1948-2017