Name: Sierra Simpson
Essay Theme: Conservation of Resources
School: Chisholm Middle School
Working Cooperatively to Ensure a Bounty of Food
Twenty years ago, who would have thought that in 2002, you would pull into a convenience store to fill up with gasoline and get a refreshing drink, and that you would be paying more per ounce for the thirst-quenching water than for the gasoline? We can live without gasoline; we cannot live without water. How quickly we forget the importance of our most precious natural resource.
Water is our most valuable natural resource. Every living thing needs water to survive. Plants need water for photosynthesis so they can grow. Animals need water to drink. Many animals depend on water-based environments for their nutrients, water, shelter, and space to raise their young. In turn, we consume plants and animals that depend on clean water to exist.
Many kinds of household, industrial, and agricultural products wind up in our waterways every day, contaminating the water for fish and other animals. Nonpoint source pollution has been known as a major contributor for declining water quality. Typically, nonpoint source pollution originates from rain and melted snow flowing over the land. Many pollutants are picked up by the water such as sediments, fertilizers, pesticides, nutrients, toxins, and other contaminants. These contaminants threaten watershed ecosystems as well as drinking water supplies. Agriculture has been identified as one of the contributors to nonpoint source pollution through overfertilizing, confined animal-feeding operations, and poor conservation practices.
Through cooperative efforts by several organizations, agriculture is cleaning up its image. The Natural Resources Conservation Service recommends the installation of buffer strips to help control pollutants. Buffers slow water runoff, trap sediments, and enhance water infiltration. They also trap fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria, pathogens, and heavy metals, lessening the chance these pollutants will reach surface or groundwater supplies. Conservation buffers protect livestock from harsh weather, offer a natural habitat for wildlife, and improve fish habitats. Legislators also support buffer construction as they will provide monetary incentives to farmers through the 2002 Farm Bill, to establish buffer strips on their farms.
Land-grant universities have conducted studies to modify animals' diets to help protect the environment. These studies have indicated that by lowering the amounts of protein and phosphorus that are fed to poultry and livestock, producers can limit the animals' waste of nitrogen and phosphorus that may contribute to water pollution. New technologies, such as ideal protein, potentially can reduce nitrogen and phosphorus waste by swine and poultry. This could be a major breakthrough for agriculture producers who raise animals in confinement. Also, universities are doing research on value-added products that can be made from the animal waste.
Ensuring a bounty of food directly depends on the preservation of our natural resources. Agriculturists are faced with the challenges of producing economical food products while protecting our environment. Regardless of where you live, you should be concerned about environmental issues in your watershed. Education is the key to prevention. In another 20 years what would you pay for a thirst-quenching bottle of water?
Agriculture and the Multilateral Environment Agreements. 2002. <http:/www.cast-science.org/castpubs.htm>
Battle heats up over water quality. 2002. Progressive Farmer Magazine. September:52-53
Cleaner water through conservation. 2002. <http://www.epa.govlowIyou/intro.html>
National Conservation Buffer Council. 2002. Environmental challenges, <http:/www.cast-science.org/pubs/animaldietmodif-nr.htm>
National Wildlife Federation. 1997. Water for life, <http://www.nature.coe.int/WGAGR15/agri2e.Ol.doc>
U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2002. Conservation Buffers Work Booklet, USDA Program Aid 161.5, Revised September 2000.
This essay was part of a 2003 essay contest sponsored by Council for Agricultural Science & Technology. Click here to see how essays were selected.