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
Shockwave, a long shelf-life cantaloupe with higher sugar content than most varieties is available from Holmes Seed Co. and Harris Seeds. Credit: Holmes Seed Co.
Cucurbits
May 3, 2016
New Cantaloupe, Pumpkin, And Squash Seeds Available
New varieties developed at the University of New Hampshire are the result of the longest continuous squash and pumpkin breeding program in North America. Read More
A herbicide screening trial in a non-bearing almond orchard treated in early January 2011.  The middle plot is a glyphosate-only program whereas the foreground and background plots had residual herbicides.  The photo was taken four months after the January treatments. (Photo credit UCANR)
Crop Protection
May 3, 2016
Almond Board To Hold Three Weed Management Workshops
The second in a series of free educational workshops aimed at the state’s almond growers will cover weed identification and Read More
fork digging into a plate full of salad
Food Safety
May 2, 2016
Department Of Justice To Investigate Dole Over Listeria Outbreak In Packaged Salads
Salad mix packaged at the company’s Ohio facility has been connected to four deaths. Read More
Florida Everglades swamp shot at sunset
Citrus
May 2, 2016
As Hurricane Season Nears, South Florida Going Dry
All basins around the region experience rainfall deficits during April as totals fall far below average. Read More
Harvesting Tips At Kuhn Orchards
Equipment
May 2, 2016
USDA Offers New Loans For Portable Farm Storage, Handling Equipment
Portable equipment can help producers, including small and local farmers, get products to market quickly. Read More
Contour Farming
Vegetables
May 2, 2016
The Importance Of Producing Crops On Well-Managed Cropland
Many farmland protection options and tools have been suggested and used in efforts to slow the rate of farmland losses around the country. Read More
Photo credit: USDA
Leafy Vegetables
May 2, 2016
Electronic Eye Detects Decay Inside Bagged Lettuce
Researchers develop a way to help select breeding lines that will yield cut lettuce with a longer shelflife. Read More
(Photo credit: USDA via Almond Board of California)
Nuts
May 2, 2016
California Almond Acreage Up 6%
The increase follows a trend in which acreage has doubled in the last 20 years. Read More
The farmers market at the play market at Meadows Maze at Hopcott Farm
Farm Management
May 2, 2016
USDA Unveils New Urban Agriculture Toolkit
For urban farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs, the toolkit is an electronic document that helps users navigate more than 70 resources, including technical assistance and financing opportunities. Read More
Cucumber---Bristol_web
Cucurbits
May 2, 2016
13 Of The Latest Cucumber Varieties
Check out this slideshow for more details on 13 cucumber varieties you need to know about from the nation’s leading seed breeders and Read More
The Latest
Cucurbits
May 3, 2016
New Cantaloupe, Pumpkin, And Squash Seed…
New varieties developed at the University of New Hampshire are the result of the longest continuous squash and pumpkin breeding program in North America. Read More
Crop Protection
May 3, 2016
Almond Board To Hold Three Weed Manageme…
The second in a series of free educational workshops aimed at the state’s almond growers will cover weed identification and Read More
Food Safety
May 2, 2016
Department Of Justice To Investigate Dol…
Salad mix packaged at the company’s Ohio facility has been connected to four deaths. Read More
Citrus
May 2, 2016
As Hurricane Season Nears, South Florida…
All basins around the region experience rainfall deficits during April as totals fall far below average. Read More
Equipment
May 2, 2016
USDA Offers New Loans For Portable Farm …
Portable equipment can help producers, including small and local farmers, get products to market quickly. Read More
Vegetables
May 2, 2016
The Importance Of Producing Crops On Wel…
Many farmland protection options and tools have been suggested and used in efforts to slow the rate of farmland losses around the country. Read More
Leafy Vegetables
May 2, 2016
Electronic Eye Detects Decay Inside Bagg…
Researchers develop a way to help select breeding lines that will yield cut lettuce with a longer shelflife. Read More
Nuts
May 2, 2016
California Almond Acreage Up 6%
The increase follows a trend in which acreage has doubled in the last 20 years. Read More
Farm Management
May 2, 2016
USDA Unveils New Urban Agriculture Toolk…
For urban farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs, the toolkit is an electronic document that helps users navigate more than 70 resources, including technical assistance and financing opportunities. Read More
Cucurbits
May 2, 2016
13 Of The Latest Cucumber Varieties
Check out this slideshow for more details on 13 cucumber varieties you need to know about from the nation’s leading seed breeders and Read More
Apples & Pears
May 1, 2016
USApple Debuts New Website
Industry group says new site is responsive to different formats, designed to be more consumer and industry friendly. Read More
Crop Protection
April 30, 2016
How To Elect The Right Fungicide For The…
Fungicide application is one tool of a successful IPM program for crop diseases. Used judiciously and appropriately, these chemicals are powerful allies in the fight against the fungi and bacteria that attack crops. Read More
GenNext Growers
April 30, 2016
Young Growers The Focus Of Industry Prog…
The next generation in the tree fruit industry getting support of leading industry organizations. Read More
Nuts
April 29, 2016
Look Out For Jacket Rot On Almond Leaves
Rains at bloom are causing higher than normal incidents of bacterial infections. Read More
Farm Marketing
April 29, 2016
Churchview Farm Aims To Close The Gap Be…
This year, from June through September, Churchview Farm, located just outside of Pittsburgh, will host four farm dinners a month, Read More
Farm Marketing
April 29, 2016
How Wholesale-Only Growers And Farm Mark…
We already know of some of the differences between farm marketers and wholesale-only farms. Farm marketers outnumber wholesale-only farms. Wholesale-only Read More
Farm Marketing
April 29, 2016
Who’s Using Biocontrols, And Who I…
With so many consumers concerned about how food is grown, many farm marketers find themselves in the unexpected role of Read More
Apples & Pears
April 28, 2016
Cracks In Your Orchard’s Infrastructure …
Modern blocks can increase your production, but if your training system is shoddy, you could see major losses. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]