It’s long been said that farmers were the world’s first environmentalists. And dairy farmers are among those in agriculture leading the way for environmental stewardship and sustainability. Sound water management practices on a dairy, in particular, are critical to a farmer’s way of life, and protecting nearby lakes, rivers and streams directly impacts residents and wildlife in surrounding areas.
Quality water is essential to dairy farms. Since many farmers live on or near the land that they farm, they all have a stake in following rigorous regulations and best-management practices to protect the health of their family and their cows, which need to drink plenty of clean water to stay healthy and produce quality milk.
The list of measures farmers take to uphold high levels of environmental stewardship is lengthy in itself. But understanding consumer perceptions of those efforts to protect and preserve our precious resources is also important.
For this reason, Florida Dairy Farmers, the Florida Department of Agriculture and the Florida Farm Bureau sought to understand perceptions of agricultural water use in the state of Florida with a the report titled “Perceptions of Agriculture Water Use: Comparing the General Public and Decision Makers” by the UF/IFAS Center of Public Issues Education.
Although one might assume that the public has a critical view of agricultural water use, both in terms of quantity and engagement in practices that may impact water quality, the report revealed some promising insights. Of note, the public responded positively to questions about farmers protecting water in Florida. The public also responded positively when assessed on the overall level of trust in farmers’ practices regarding water.
With all the significant positive strides the agriculture industry has made in protecting the land, water and other resources, there is still more work to be done. The industry continues to adapt and reinvent itself to keep up with ever-changing environmental regulations.
It’s more important now than ever to understand perceptions of farm practices and to tailor messages to the public that highlight and reinforce the industry’s efforts to protect the environment.
Moving forward, it remains important for entities with common interests to collaborate, much like Florida Dairy Farmers, the Florida Department of Agriculture and the Florida Farm Bureau did with IFAS, in an effort to gain a greater understanding of issues affecting Florida agriculture.
Our environment depends on it. Our industry depends on it. And our future generations of farmers depend on it.