Writer: Blair Fannin, 979-845-2259, firstname.lastname@example.org
WACO – Advancing sustainable agriculture and continuous improvement in the health and well being of crops and livestock were recurring themes during Blackland Income Growth Conference sessions held recently at the Waco Convention Center.
The 54th conference, one of the largest regional conferences in the Blacklands area that attracts farmers, ranchers and landowners with agricultural enterprises, provided the latest in new technology and how to better deal with weather risks such as drought or excessive moisture.
The conference is sponsored by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.
“You deal with so many uncertain risks,” said Blackland Income Growth Program President Robin Liebe of Waco during the noon luncheon. “I want to thank all of you for what you do in producing a product that feeds the world.”
Producing more food and fiber will continue to be a challenge, especially as the world population reaches 12 billion people by 2050, said Rod Snyder, president of Field to Market, the Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture based in Washington.
“We have a unique challenge in feeding more people by 2050,” he said. “More consumers are interested in where their food comes from.”
Field to Market is a diverse alliance that works to create opportunities throughout the agricultural supply chain for improvements in productivity, environmental quality and human well-being, Snyder said.
The alliance is working with more than 90 organizations in its Field to Market program with major food and retail companies “coming together” to focus on sustainability, specifically crop production, he said.
Snyder said Coca-Cola and General Mills have already pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 20-25 percent in the next five to 10 years.
However, there are hurdles to overcome for farmers, particularly in achieving higher crop yields in light of unforeseen challenges. For example, Dr. Paul Baumann, AgriLife Extension state weed specialist in College Station, briefed grain farmers about the ongoing battle against weed-resistant-herbicides.
“First, we need to verify the issue, then it’s our responsibility to develop solutions with university and industry cooperation,” he said.
Baumann said weeds resistant to certain herbicides began years back as farmers repeatedly used the same herbicide without implementing other weed control options.
“How did this happen? There was a shift away from soil-applied residual herbicides with repeated applications of the same compounds,” he said.
Enhancing animal welfare practices in the livestock sector continues to gain more attention. Dr. Ron Gill, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist at College Station, led an in-depth discussion on animal welfare standards and the Five Freedoms of Cattle, which he depicts online at http://bit.ly/1JXJaGU .
In summarizing his presentation, Gill said more beef producers need to tell their story and “understand the importance of public perception as to how they do business.
“We have to be more open about what we are doing and be able to explain why we are doing it. We also need to make sure when we do things it is in the animal’s best interest.”