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

All Vegetables Stories >All Fruits Stories >All Nuts Stories >All Citrus Stories >

The Latest

NutsCalifornia County Passes Ordinance To Protect Walnut Gr…
August 27, 2014
Verification of ownership needed to complete sales of valuable nuts. Read More
NutsAlmond Growers Hit By Russian Import Limits
August 27, 2014
Growers reflect on changes to export market in light of produce ban. Read More
Farm ManagementLeadership And Management Expert To Speak At California…
August 27, 2014
Daniel Goleman will make presentation at California State University-Fresno. Read More
CitrusNational Scientific Summit On Herbicide Resistant Weeds…
August 27, 2014
Topics to be covered include the economics of proactively managing herbicide resistance, education and outreach efforts, and incentives and regulatory initiatives. Read More
FruitsFlorida Organic Group Dedicated To Serving Growers, Com…
August 27, 2014
Education and development programs are plentiful for interested producers. Read More
VegetablesExperimental Herbicide Technology Blasts Weeds In Rows
August 27, 2014
The technology uses an air compressor to spray corncob grit on both sides of a crop, killing young weeds. Read More
Disease ControlFungal Disease Outbreak Hits Pacific Northwest Vegetabl…
August 27, 2014
An outbreak of blackleg, light leaf spot, and white leaf spot can be significant problems in several vegetable crops.   Read More
CitrusClean Water Conundrum: Ditch The Rule Or Ditch The Myth…
August 26, 2014
Regulation inundation causing a rising tide of confusion for farmers. Read More
BerriesMichigan State University Extension Offers Tips To Prev…
August 26, 2014
Humidity, rainy periods conducive to disease development. Read More
FruitsSpotted Wing Drosophila Populations Rising In Michigan
August 26, 2014
Extension researchers advise berry growers on trapping, salt testing to take stock of pest population. Read More
Apples & PearsNorthwest Pear Crop Estimate Revised Upward
August 26, 2014
Washington and Oregon pear growers forecast a larger size crop than that originally estimated. Read More
VegetablesAgrium Acquires A Controlling Interest In Biotech Compa…
August 26, 2014
The company also acquires stake in Agricen Sciences as part of strategic effort to expand their offering of integrated, next-generation plant health technologies. Read More
Insect ControlCover All Angles When Taking On Threecornered Alfalfa H…
August 25, 2014
Learn how to ID, the survival and spread, and management methods for this insect pest. Read More
GrapesEarthquake Shakes Up Napa Wine Industry
August 25, 2014
Sunday’s early morning quake was centered just six miles from the city of Napa. Read More
OrangesNew Orange Pipeline Full Of Juice
August 25, 2014
Industry stakeholders are working on a rapid release model for processed varieties. Read More
CitrusCalifornia Citrus Cleared For Chinese Export
August 25, 2014
New agreement addresses concerns over brown rot. Read More
CitrusConsolidated Citrus Eyes Giant Planned Agricultural, Em…
August 25, 2014
South Florida real estate endeavor includes a 5 million-square-foot industrial park, including 200,000 square feet of retail space and 500 hotel rooms. Read More
Pest ControlManaging Lepidoptera In Tomatoes
August 22, 2014
This video provides information on how to best identify and control Lepidoptera in tomatoes. Read More