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
Crop ProtectionResources For Knowing Your Soil
July 30, 2015
Getting to know your soil and learning other environmental and natural resources data can be downloaded and is available for use with many computer software platforms for general resource analysis and farm management. Read More
money
CitrusBankrupt Florida Farm To Yield Plenty Of Land, Equipment In Upcoming Auction
July 30, 2015
As many as seven different buyers could be part of this Chapter 11 proceeding. Read More
Sanjay Shukla
ProductionGeometrically Speaking, Thinking Smaller Might Produce Big Savings For Vegetable Growers
July 30, 2015
University of Florida scientist develops compact planting bed formula that cuts water, fertilizer, and pesticide use in half. Read More
GrapesDrought’s Impact On California Winegrapes
July 30, 2015
The impact is minimal this year, but the future is uncertain if the drought continues. Read More
Apples & PearsEPA Approves New 1-MCP Technology
July 30, 2015
EPA approved Fysium, a new 1-MCP product from Pace International LLC. Considered new technology, this product is produced on-site by Read More
Crop ProtectionNew Fungicide Targets Key Diseases
July 30, 2015
This disease control tool hits two different parts of the fungal life cycle. Read More
CitrusWestern Growers Praises Introduction Of California Emergency Drought Relief Act
July 30, 2015
Legislation contains short- and long-term provisions to deal with the historic drought. Read More
Farm ManagementFour Great Pricing Tips From U-Pick Experts
July 30, 2015
Although each of the growers I talked to has his or her own take on a pricing structure, they all Read More
BerriesUC-Davis Responds To California Auditor’s Recommended Improvements To Strawberry Program
July 30, 2015
Following a six-month review of the University of California (UC)-Davis Strawberry breeding program, the California state auditor’s office has released Read More
Farm ManagementHow To Find Your Perfect U-Pick Pricing Structure
July 30, 2015
If there’s one mission impossible for pick-your-own operations, it might just be how to set a pricing structure. Odds are you’ve Read More
The Latest
Crop ProtectionResources For Knowing Your Soil
July 30, 2015
Getting to know your soil and learning other environmental and natural resources data can be downloaded and is available for use with many computer software platforms for general resource analysis and farm management. Read More
money
CitrusBankrupt Florida Farm To Yield Plenty Of Land, Equipmen…
July 30, 2015
As many as seven different buyers could be part of this Chapter 11 proceeding. Read More
Sanjay Shukla
ProductionGeometrically Speaking, Thinking Smaller Might Produce …
July 30, 2015
University of Florida scientist develops compact planting bed formula that cuts water, fertilizer, and pesticide use in half. Read More
GrapesDrought’s Impact On California Winegrapes
July 30, 2015
The impact is minimal this year, but the future is uncertain if the drought continues. Read More
Apples & PearsEPA Approves New 1-MCP Technology
July 30, 2015
EPA approved Fysium, a new 1-MCP product from Pace International LLC. Considered new technology, this product is produced on-site by Read More
Crop ProtectionNew Fungicide Targets Key Diseases
July 30, 2015
This disease control tool hits two different parts of the fungal life cycle. Read More
CitrusWestern Growers Praises Introduction Of California Emer…
July 30, 2015
Legislation contains short- and long-term provisions to deal with the historic drought. Read More
Farm ManagementFour Great Pricing Tips From U-Pick Experts
July 30, 2015
Although each of the growers I talked to has his or her own take on a pricing structure, they all Read More
BerriesUC-Davis Responds To California Auditor’s Recomme…
July 30, 2015
Following a six-month review of the University of California (UC)-Davis Strawberry breeding program, the California state auditor’s office has released Read More
Farm ManagementHow To Find Your Perfect U-Pick Pricing Structure
July 30, 2015
If there’s one mission impossible for pick-your-own operations, it might just be how to set a pricing structure. Odds are you’ve Read More
CitrusGroup Food Safety Audits May Help Prepare You For The P…
July 29, 2015
Group food safety audits, slated to be available next spring, may save small- to mid-size growers time and money. Read More
PotatoesPotato Production And The Environmental Component Of Pl…
July 29, 2015
Part of being prepared for unusual weather patterns means being on the lookout for problematic pathogens and other pests. Read More
Farm ManagementUnited Farm Workers Turns Up Heat On California Growers
July 29, 2015
With temperatures soaring into the triple digits, union organizers are focusing on heat illness regulations. Read More
Apples & PearsResearch Is Vital To Keep Asian Apple Export Markets Op…
July 29, 2015
With the large domestic production of U.S. apples in recent years, Asian export markets (China, etc.) are vital. This is Read More
Disease ControlNew Disease Control Tools For Fruit And Nut Growers
July 29, 2015
Apple scab is a big problem for growers in the Midwest and East. But, a new fungicide boasts efficacy against Read More
IrrigationRiver Point Farms Sets Standard For Water Application, …
July 28, 2015
Efficient systems help the Oregon farm, one of the largest onion growers in the U.S., achieve high yields while minimizing water inputs. Read More
Produce aisle leafy greens super market grocery store
Food SafetyLGMA Members Get High Marks In Food Safety  
July 28, 2015
The California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement’s (LGMA) annual report shows the group received the lowest number of citations in its history. Read More
FruitsFruit Grower Tour Held Next Week In New York
July 28, 2015
Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 5 for the 17th annual Wayne County Fruit Grower Tour presented by agr.assistance. Read More