More than 450 agricultural stakeholders gathered in Orlando, Fla., Dec. 9th-12th for the Fifth National Conference on Grazing Lands, where they focused on grazing's contribution to conservation benefits to America's livestock producers, watersheds and wildlife.
U.S. Representative Frank Lucas, R-Okla., who is also chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, presented remarks during the opening session of the conference. Lucas spoke of the challenges in Congress including efforts to get the 2012 Farm Bill passed. He noted the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and farm financial crisis of the 1980s.
"My goal is to make sure we have federal policy that does not create or enhance the agony like we had in those times," Lucas said. "We've been so successful with conservation, most people don't think that can happen again. That's not true."
Lucas encouraged attendees to attend town meetings and other events to develop a relationship with their representatives to Congress and their staff, he said, "so when it matters, you can pick up the phone and call them, and you can make a difference."
Animal scientist Temple Grandin also addressed conference attendees and shared strategies for improving animal welfare. She noted that calm animals are easier to handle – and have better productivity and performance.
Grandin also encouraged livestock producers to be proactive in educating the public – and legislators – about the good things the industry is doing with regard to animal care and welfare. She encouraged the use of social media such as Facebook and YouTube videos to help showcase those efforts.
With regard to livestock grazing, she noted there is still a stereotype that cattle are detrimental to the land. "We've got to keep educating people that with management cattle can be beneficial for grazing lands and the environment," Grandin said.
Colorado rancher Kit Pharo presented at the conference also, sharing his philosophy on moving from a production mentality to one of profit for beef production. Animal behaviorist Fred Provenza shared thoughts on nutritional wisdom among livestock and humans, and numerous producers from around the country who raise everything from beef and dairy cattle to sheep, goats and horses also delivered presentations.
Additional presenters and participants discussed the beneficial value properly managed grazing lands offer to the nation in the form of productive lands for raising livestock, providing habitat for wildlife and the boost to soil health and water infiltration in watersheds.
The Fifth National Conference on Grazing Lands was hosted by the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative with sponsorship support from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Agricultural Research Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
For additional information, visit www.glci.org.