With Earth Day approaching, a Rabobank study found that nearly 70 percent of the U.S. farmers and ranchers polled have taken steps toward implementing sustainable agricultural practices.

“Sustainability is an increasing priority among consumers as well as for many areas of industry and commerce, and this survey shows that U.S. farmers and ranchers share that view,” says John Ryan, president and chief executive officer for Rabo AgriFinance. “Sustainable agricultural practices are the cornerstone of a long-term strategy for success.”

According to Rabobank Farm & Ranch Survey, three out of every four U.S. farmers are aware of sustainable practices, and most have used direct seeding, minimized the use of chemicals or employed crop rotation.

“For farmers and ranchers in California, the use of alternative energy sources can be a matter of survival,” says Aitor Ezcurra, executive vice president and head of commercial banking for Rabobank, N.A. "Energy and water resources are limited and costly, so the development and employment of sustainable energy sources in agriculture is a smart business practice as well as beneficial to the environment."

Additionally, the survey found:

  • In the North Central and South regions, higher-revenue farms (more than $1 million annually) have taken steps toward sustainable agriculture (North Central: 89 percent versus 67 percent of lower-revenue farms; South:  97 percent versus 65 percent lower-revenue farms). 
  • The opposite is true for farms in the West.  More lower-revenue farms have moved toward sustainable agriculture (74 percent versus 51 percent for farms with revenues exceeding $1 million).
  • Direct seeding is more prevalent in the South and North Central (64 percent and 61 percent respectively versus 44 percent in the West).  It is also more prevalent among large acreage farms (75 percent for 1,000 acres or more versus 52 percent for less than 1,000 acres).
  • Reduction of energy use is more prevalent in the West (45 percent) compared to North Central (29 percent). 

Methodology

The study was conducted to gauge farmers’ confidence among target farming regions in the United States. An independent survey company conducted 458 computer-assisted telephone interviews from Feb. 2-11. The survey targeted farmers who own or operate a farm grossing $250,000 or more in one of three U.S. census regions: Midwest, South and West. Additionally, a baseline survey was conducted, but not released in 2008, and is used as comparison for this survey.

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Source: Rabobank