Sustainable Practices in Agriculture

As responsible stewards of the earth’s resources, U.S. agriculture, fishery and forestry organizations are dedicated to developing and continuing sustainable practices while improving operations through ongoing innovation and thoughtful approaches to conservation.

Read the fact sheets below to learn more about how we grow, harvest, and produce.

U.S. Almonds Fact Sheet

With its ideal growing conditions, rich soil and abundant sunshine, California supplies more than 80% of the global almond demand. U.S. almond growers and processors are committed to using sustainable practices that conserve the natural resources they depend on for their livelihood, serving their local communities by providing jobs and minimizing environmental impacts, and producing nutritious, sustainably-grown almonds to families around the world. Packed with powerful nutrition, almonds are not only good for the individual, but also good for local communities and the planet.

U.S. Beef Fact Sheet

American beef producers have known for generations how important it is to keep their animals healthy and contented. Their commitment to providing quality care proves itself in the data: U.S. herds represent only 6% of the world’s cattle yet provide 18% of the world’s beef.

Between 1961 and 2018, the U.S. beef industry, through continued sustainability efforts and improved resource use, has reduced emissions by more than 40% (per pound of beef produced) while also producing more than 66% more beef per animal.

U.S. Corn Fact Sheet

Corn Producers’ Sustainable Intensification: Advanced production methods such as reduced-till and no-till planting greatly reduce energy consumption, soil loss, pesticide use and greenhouse gas emissions while enhancing yields.

From 1980 – 2015, U.S. Corn producers achieved declines per unit of production in soil erosion (-58%); irrigation (-46%); land use (-41%); energy use (-41%); and greenhouse gas emissions (-31%).

U.S. Cotton Fact Sheet

Cotton – a natural fiber – has been used to dress and protect families for at least 7,000 years. The thousands of U.S. cotton growers – predominantly family farms – are committed to continual improvement that positions U.S. cotton to support society’s quality of life for future generations.  Accordingly, the U.S. cotton industry continues to research and adopt responsible production practices that not only promote economic sustainability but also minimize impact on natural resources.

As a result, since 1980, the U.S. cotton industry has demonstrated continuous improvement against a number of measures, including reductions in soil erosion, irrigation water applied, labor hours, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

U.S. Dairy Fact Sheet

A long legacy of dairy stewardship has culminated in the United States being recognized as having the world’s lowest emissions intensity per liter of milk produced while being the largest single country producer of cow’s milk. Continued investments in new technologies and regenerative practices further reduces dairy’s environmental footprint, making U.S. Dairy a valuable contributor to sustainable food systems and a source of choice for consumers around the world that want nutritious, high quality dairy products produced in a responsible manner.

U.S. Dry Beans Fact Sheet

It is estimated that humans have been growing and eating dry beans for more than 11,000 years. In the Americas, beans have been grown for about 6,000 years. Dry beans, a subgroup of pulses and legumes, are climate smart: they simultaneously adapt to varying climates and use less water compared to many other protein sources, require less fertilizers, and they increase biodiversity, all of which play a part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

U.S. Hardwood Fact Sheet

Hardwoods from Sustainably-Managed Forests: By definition, “sustainable” means to create and maintain conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony. More simply, “sustainability” means meeting today’s needs while conserving the resources needed for tomorrow. Due to the intensive application of best management practices, the hardwood forests of the United States support a vibrant healthy stand of timber, as well as a large and diverse wildlife population, clean rivers and streams, and a host of recreational activities. And since there is twice as much American hardwood growing than is being selectively harvested annually, it is clear the hardwood supply for future generations is sustainable.

American Hardwoods are derived from sustainably-managed forests in the United States. Forest inventories demonstrate that between 1953 and 2012, the volume of U.S. hardwood growing stock increased from 5.2 billion m3 to 12.0 billion m3, a gain of over 130%.

U.S. Hide, Skin and Leather Fact Sheet

The volume of hides and skins collected as a by-product of the meat industry is significant. The leather industry purchases these by-products, which otherwise would mostly go to waste, and transforms them into one of the most versatile and attractive materials on earth. Leather — a protective, versatile, durable, breathable material — is the best way of dealing with the high volume of hides and skins that have to be sustainably and affordably managed. There is no better alternative to using discarded hides and skins than to make leather. The presence of large volumes of perishable animal waste would have serious consequences on solid waste systems and place tremendous pressure on the environment.

U.S. Organic Fact Sheet

Organic agriculture in the U.S. is based on sustainable practices that not only protect environmental health, but also strive to improve it. Organic farmers understand that what ‘you put into the soil has a profound impact on what you get out of it’. This is why they rely on natural processes and materials when developing farming systems—these contribute to soil, crop and livestock nutrition, pest and weed management, attainment of production goals, and conservation of biological diversity.

U.S. Peanuts Fact Sheet

Peanuts are naturally sustainable. Originally introduced as a nitrogen-fixing rotation crop for cotton, they replenish soil with the essential nitrogen depleted by other crops. This means that less fertilizer is needed to grow peanuts, as well as the subsequent rotation crop, resulting in less greenhouse gas emissions.

U.S. Poultry and Eggs Fact Sheet

Poultry Farmers Advance Sustainability of Poultry and Eggs: Improving sustainability in U.S. poultry and egg production means not only focusing on bird health and welfare, but also reducing costs and maximizing productivity and addressing any societal concerns. The heritage of the family farm and the importance of the land have allowed the poultry and egg industries to take the lead in the development of sustainable practices as a core principle to maintain a safe and secure food supply and in fundamentally preserving hundreds of rural economies in many states across the country.

U.S. Rendering Fact Sheet

Rendering of meat production by-products and used cooking oils are environmentally friendly ways to recycle material that would otherwise be wasted. In short, rendering is recycling. If not rendered, these perishable materials can create human and animal health hazards. Rendering allows for the recovery of fat, protein, and minerals from these raw materials for new uses.  While providing these essential services and products, rendering also boosts the sustainability of animal agriculture by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conserving fuel and water.

U.S. Rice Fact Sheet

Rice Farmers Produce More With Less: On a national level, U.S. rice production has become increasingly efficient over the years, relying on fewer inputs to produce more rice. The rice industry is moving toward meeting increasing demand while achieving a reduced environmental impact for every 100 pounds of rice produced. America’s rice farmers produce more than 20 billion pounds of rice each year, providing 85 percent of the rice that is consumed in the United States.

The most recent Field to Market survey determined that from 1980 – 2015, U.S. Rice improved on measures of resource “efficiency,” with decreases (in per hundredweight) in land use (-39%); irrigation water (-52%); and energy use (-34%).

U.S. Seafood Fact Sheet

Sustainable Fishery Management: The United States is a recognized global leader in sustainable seafood. Marine fisheries in the U.S. are conducted under science-based fishery management plans. By law, U.S. seafood must be caught according to fishery management plans that consider social and economic outcomes for fishing communities; prevent overfishing; rebuild depleted stocks; minimize bycatch and interactions with protected species; and identify and conserve essential fish habitat.

U.S. Softwood Fact Sheet

The U.S. has more trees today than 70 years ago. In fact, over 1 billion seedlings are planted in the U.S. every year – the equivalent of 2.7 million trees every single day of the year. Modern forest management ensures not only that felled trees are replaced, but that every year more wood is grown in U.S. forests than is harvested.

U.S. Soy Fact Sheet

Soybean Producers Demonstrate Sustainability through Conservation: U.S. soybean production is based on a national system of sustainability and conservation laws, regulations and guidelines, combined with careful implementation of best production practices on the nation’s 303,191 soybean farms. In addition, many soybean producers participate in numerous certified and audited voluntary sustainability and conservation programs.

Since the 1980s, the U.S. Soy sector has:

  • Decreased energy use by 46% per bushel of U.S. soybean production;
  • Decreased greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 43% per bushel of U.S. soybeans between 1980 and 2020;
  • Decreased soil erosion by 34% per hectare of U.S. soy production between 1980 and 2020.

U.S. Wheat Fact Sheet

U.S. Wheat Farmers Work Every Day to Contribute to a Sustainable Future in Agriculture: Sustainability is reflected in agronomic practices, research and development, and transportation methods, all of which contribute to making the United States a sustainable source of wheat for export and domestic use. Sustainability is also about innovation—reducing inputs while producing better wheat varieties to increase yields and provide consistently high-quality wheat to customers around the world.