During the last couple of decades, some environmental groups have been less than kind to agriculture.They have bombarded the public with figures on soil loss, pesticide-related mishaps and alleged failed attempts at using herbicides and other crop protectors. Their figures are oftentimes unverifiable.

Technology is often labeled as the No. 1 environmental enemy by some of these groups. Food producers - farmers and ranchers - view technology as the application of knowledge. As humans, we survive by adapting the environment to our needs.

Take away technology and humans would be just like other primates - confined to tropical regions and subject to extinction due to environmental changes. To survive,mankind has changed his environment while conserving resources and continually creating new ones.

Resources are made not born. Land, ores, petroleum - the raw materials of our planet - do not inherently further human purposes.

Mandetermines what is useful and how to use it. Topsoil becomes a resource when afarmer prepares the soil and plants wheat seed, for example. Ores becomeresources when metals are extracted from them.

During thepast two centuries, technology has been creating resources more rapidly thanhumans have been consuming them. By every measure of price and availability,resources have become more abundant.

Withoutscience and technology today's farmers and ranchers would be unable to feed themasses. Farmers use technology responsibly and adopt new farming methods andpractices by attending training sessions and courses.

But newfarm technology is expensive. It is in the best interest of farmers to use itcarefully and sparingly. Misuse would add to the cost of production, whichwould result in an even lower return on their investment.

Farmers useagricultural chemicals only when necessary. When they use chemicals, farmersfollow label directions designed for public health and safety. When a rancheruses antibiotics and other animal health products for their stock, they followproper drug use practices. When new advances in biotechnology are discovered,farmers must abide by stringent testing and monitoring practices that ensureonly safe products in the marketplace.

Foodproduced in theUnited Statesis safe. More than four decades of Foodand Drug Administration testing has shown the majority of our fruits andvegetables have no detectable pesticide residues. This underscores thatAmerican farmers use pesticides properly. Our grain and cereal crops are amongthe cleanest and most wholesome in the world.

Countlesslaws help ensure our food is safe. Billions of dollars are spent to supportfood and agricultural safety and quality inspection. The private sector,combined with state and local governments, also spends billions on similaractivities.

Farmers andranchers support efforts to evaluate and enhance the current regulatory andfood monitoring system. Agricultural producers want to work with all partiestoward maintaining safe food, but this industry must avoid policy changes thatare based solely on fear or false information.

Decisionsaffecting the course of agricultural production remain critically important andwill have far reaching implications on our quality of life. We must be carefulin determining long-term policies. Farmers and ranchers will continue tomaximize their production capacity with an ever-watchful eye on food safety,quality and our environment.