In a recent national survey of American beef eaters, cattle ranchers and farmers were selected as the third greenest profession from a diverse list of jobs, with park rangers topping the list. The survey was conducted by IPSOS Public Affairs, a global survey-based market research firm, for The Beef Checkoff Program.
Green Values at Kona’s Palani Ranch
Two-thirds of U.S. cattle farms and ranches have been in the same family for two generations or more (Aspen Media & Market Research, 2008).
That’s no surprise to Jimmy Greenwell, president of the Big Isle’s Palani Ranch. His great-grandfather, Henry Nicholas Greenwell, founded the Kona ranch in 1850. Palani is one of our island’s grass-fed beef producers.
“Ranchers are grass growers, watershed managers, soil conservators and habitat providers,” explains Greenwell. “Our goal is to pass on the land to the next generations in better shape than what we found it.”
Greenwell continues, “There are a lot of benefits that flow from grazing lands like ours to the broader community including their scenic value, cultural significance, carbon sequestration qualities, habitat preservation and watershed value. Properly managing this land resource, however, takes money and ranching is part of how we harvest the value of the landscape to pay for its own maintenance.”
Palani Ranch operates 20,000 acres primarily in North Kona.
Emphasizing that it’s important to keep the grazing industry viable in Hawai’i, Greenwell adds, “Ranching maintains the pastureland use pattern, keeping open land intact.”
Ranches Protect the Land
An overwhelming majority of IPSOS survey respondents, 86%, believe farmers and ranchers are committed to protecting and preserving land and natural resources. Actions seen as “very important” by more than half of those surveyed included things common to cattlemen: planting crops and grasses to control erosion, rotating cattle pastures to prevent overgrazing and planting trees to provide windbreaks and shelter.
Consumers aren’t the only ones who find farmers and ranchers critical to protecting our environment. For example, a group of sportsmen, conservation and outdoor interests-including The Nature Conservancy-is collaborating on a new “Thank a Rancher” campaign in Wyoming that recognizes the importance of agriculture and ranching in maintaining our open spaces and conserving wildlife habitat.
According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, there are 40 ways that raising cattle contributes to environmental sustainability. The list gives you a broad view of the many duties required of ranchers and their importance; we list 25 of them:
25 Ways Grass-Fed Cattle Farmers and Ranchers Help the Environment
- Maintain and introduce habitats as homes for numerous endangered species.
- Use biological controls on invasive pests.
- Plant trees for windbreaks, which provide protection for the cattle, wildlife and soil.
- Maintain proper nutrients in soil by regularly analyzing soil samples to determine which nutrients are needed and in what amounts.
- Implement conservation tillage so that soil can be conserved and available moisture used more efficiently.
- Fence off streams and wetlands to create a buffer that helps prevent bank erosion and runoff.
- Utilize beef production technologies to raise more beef with fewer natural resources.
- Plant grasses on highly erodible land, thereby conserving soil.
- Protect open spaces from development through programs like conservation easements.
- Reduce fuel consumption by using ATVs that use less fuel than other farm/ranch vehicles.
- Utilize solar-powered electric fence chargers.
- Create retention ponds to protect waterways from excessive runoff.
- Use recycled products to build fences and recycled tires to build water tanks.
- Participate in university research projects that aim to improve agricultural environmental practices.
- Plan soil nutrient management systems to control nutrient runoff and to minimize the need for additional nutrients.
- Monitor and document effective practices and regularly solicit input from expert sources to improve resource management.
- Control weeds and prevent residue build-up on pasture land so it doesn’t turn into hot and dangerous fires.
- Maintain open space as cattle grazing pastures, allowing land to remain natural, free of trash, debris and invasive weeds and trees.
- Install irrigation systems that efficiently utilize limited water resources.
- Hold up water on ranchlands for extended periods of time in order to replenish underground aquifers and filter out nutrients and particulate matter.
- Improve plant density, a sign of a healthier rangeland.
- Allow cattle to graze and consume forages that convert to healthy, nutritious beef.
- Utilize rotational grazing so cattle are moved to different pasture to prevent overgrazing.
- Use windmills to harvest wind energy into usable mechanical power.
- Partner with state, local and national environmental agencies to monitor land, water and wildlife and make improvements.
The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The Checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national Checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.