Opinion: Making Sense Of Sustainable Ag

When you think about sustainable agriculture, what comes to mind? Does conventional production agriculture pop up? If not, it should.

FFAA, as an advocate for the crop protection inputs industry, supports an all-encompassing definition of sustainable agriculture — everything from organic, to locally grown, to crops grown with all the technological assistance we can muster. We need to be broad if we’re to address one of the major policy decisions of the 21st Century: How can agriculture meet the food, fuel, and fiber needs of a burgeoning world population while improving our impact on our environment?

Defining Moments

How can we be sustainable? As our state government and regulators debate this and other “green” policies covering issues ranging from greenhouse gas emissions to climate change and carbon footprints, we need to monitor how sustainable agriculture is defined.

When agriculture is drawn into these debates, we need to make sure the resulting laws and regulations include a science and outcomes based definition of sustainability.

The existing federal definition of “sustainable agriculture” stems from the 1990 Farm Bill. According to USC Title 7, Section 3101, sustainable agriculture is: “An integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will over the long term:

• Satisfy human food and fiber needs;
• Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends;
• Make the most efficient use of non-renewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls;
• Sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and
• Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.”

While the federal definition is good, we need to make sure “sustainable agriculture” encompasses modern technologies, such as enhanced efficiency fertilizers, tried and true and new crop protection products, biotechnology, and other yet-to-be introduced or discovered production advances that minimize environmental impacts, improve yields on the same amount of acreage, improve food quality, and increase the economic profitability of growers and ranchers.

Yesterday, Today, And Tomorrow

We must make sure sustainable agriculture continues to represent the best of both traditional and modern agriculture. Minnesota state law recognizes sustainable agriculture as a system that uses a “fundamental understanding of nature as well as the latest scientific advances to create integrated, self-reliant, resource conserving practices that enhance the enrichment of the environment and provide short- and long-term productive and economical agriculture.” That’s short and sweet. A bit more comprehensive is The Keystone Center’s (www.keystone.org) Field to Market definition of sustainable agriculture as:

“Meeting needs of the present while improving the ability of future generations to meet their own needs by focusing on these specific critical outcomes:

• Increasing agricultural productivity to meet future nutritional needs while decreasing impacts on the environment, including water, soil, habitat, air quality and climate emissions, and land use;
• Improving human health through access to safe, nutritious food; and
• Improving social and economic well-being of agricultural communities.”

With 6.8 billion people to feed, clothe, and sustain today, and a world population expected to reach almost 9 billion by 2050, we can’t afford to eliminate modern technologies from production agriculture. Keep this in mind the next time someone asks what “sustainable agriculture” means to you.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
ProductionNMSU Researchers Use Protected Agriculture For Season Extension
May 28, 2015
The demand for safe, nutritious, affordable local food, particularly for fresh fruits and vegetables, is rising in New Mexico. However, Read More
Farm ManagementGreat Ag Careers Are Going Wanting [Opinion]
May 28, 2015
There are 22,500 jobs going unfilled annually for an industry that’s extremely critical to the future of mankind. Read More
CitrusEPA Announces Final Rule On New Clean Water Act’s Jurisdiction
May 28, 2015
Landmark redefinition of “waters of the U.S.” called a land grab by opponents. Read More
OrganicNumbers Of Organic Farms, Sales, Continue To Soar
May 28, 2015
Of all the fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S., 12% is now organic, doubling market share in the past decade. Read More
Disease ControlTips For Grapevine Trunk Disease Diagnostics, Prevention, and Control
May 28, 2015
Various pathogens and environmental factors are considered to be major threats to the vineyard’s health. Pathogens are disease-causing organisms such Read More
Disease ControlPotential New Peach Disease In California
May 28, 2015
Last year, disease levels were very low in the cling peach growing districts of California. Still, several diseases continue to Read More
GrapesDeadline Extended For Crucial Winegrape Disease And Pest Referendum
May 27, 2015
Returned ballots to continue the Pierce’s Disease/Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter referendum must be returned by June 10. Read More
CitrusPMA Comments On FDA’s Proposed FSMA Implementation Work Plans
May 27, 2015
In written comments submitted today to the FDA proposed Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) implementation work plans (Focus on Implementation Read More
A view from a low-altitude helicopter shows avocado groves in south Miami-Dade County.
Disease ControlEyes In The Sky Provide Early Detection Of Destructive Avocado Disease
May 27, 2015
Study using multispectral photography helps scientists successfully scout out laurel wilt-affected trees. Read More
BerriesThree Promising New Berries From USDA
May 27, 2015
USDA breeding programs in Maryland and Oregon have introduced three promising berry cultivars that could work well for growers both East Read More
The Latest
ProductionNMSU Researchers Use Protected Agriculture For Season E…
May 28, 2015
The demand for safe, nutritious, affordable local food, particularly for fresh fruits and vegetables, is rising in New Mexico. However, Read More
Farm ManagementGreat Ag Careers Are Going Wanting [Opinion]
May 28, 2015
There are 22,500 jobs going unfilled annually for an industry that’s extremely critical to the future of mankind. Read More
CitrusEPA Announces Final Rule On New Clean Water Act’s Juris…
May 28, 2015
Landmark redefinition of “waters of the U.S.” called a land grab by opponents. Read More
OrganicNumbers Of Organic Farms, Sales, Continue To Soar
May 28, 2015
Of all the fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S., 12% is now organic, doubling market share in the past decade. Read More
Disease ControlTips For Grapevine Trunk Disease Diagnostics, Preventio…
May 28, 2015
Various pathogens and environmental factors are considered to be major threats to the vineyard’s health. Pathogens are disease-causing organisms such Read More
Disease ControlPotential New Peach Disease In California
May 28, 2015
Last year, disease levels were very low in the cling peach growing districts of California. Still, several diseases continue to Read More
GrapesDeadline Extended For Crucial Winegrape Disease And Pes…
May 27, 2015
Returned ballots to continue the Pierce’s Disease/Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter referendum must be returned by June 10. Read More
CitrusPMA Comments On FDA’s Proposed FSMA Implementation Work…
May 27, 2015
In written comments submitted today to the FDA proposed Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) implementation work plans (Focus on Implementation Read More
A view from a low-altitude helicopter shows avocado groves in south Miami-Dade County.
Disease ControlEyes In The Sky Provide Early Detection Of Destructive …
May 27, 2015
Study using multispectral photography helps scientists successfully scout out laurel wilt-affected trees. Read More
BerriesThree Promising New Berries From USDA
May 27, 2015
USDA breeding programs in Maryland and Oregon have introduced three promising berry cultivars that could work well for growers both East Read More
EquipmentThe Benefits Of Vineyard Mechanization
May 27, 2015
Labor accounts for a substantial fraction of the production costs of most fruits, including grapes. Manual harvest is particularly laborious, Read More
FruitsRegistration Is Open For 2015 International Fruit Tree …
May 26, 2015
Registration is now open for the International Fruit Tree Association’s (IFTA) 2015 Regional Study Tour. This registration includes hotel accommodations Read More
Stone FruitEarly Cherry Harvest In Pacific Northwest
May 26, 2015
Cherry harvest is off to an early start in the Pacific Northwest reports the Tri-City Herald thanks to a warmer-than-average Read More
FruitsCalifornia’s Delta Growers To Cut Water Use By 25%
May 26, 2015
The California State Water Resources Control Board have approved a proposal from riparian water right holders in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Read More
CitrusSenate OKs Trade Priorities And Accountability Act
May 26, 2015
Late on the evening of Friday, May 22, the U.S. Senate approved the Trade Priorities And Accountability Act (TPA) of Read More
Apples & PearsSolve Your Labor Problems From Within
May 26, 2015
Summer is here, which means harvest season is just around the corner. Hopefully you’ll have the crews you need this Read More
FruitsWater Conservation Grants Awarded In Pacific Northwest
May 26, 2015
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has awarded 17 Water Conservation Field Services Program (WCFSP) grants in the Pacific Northwest Region, Read More
Disease ControlPartnerships Key To Healthy Northwest Vines
May 26, 2015
Washington’s grape industry has seen accelerating growth over the past several decades. That momentum is owed, in part, to the Read More