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
Apple Grower of the YearTerhune Orchards Celebrates 40th Anniversary This Weekend
April 24, 2015
It’s a Mount-u-mental celebration for the 2005 Apple Grower Of The Year and family. Read More
OrganicWebcast: Weed Control Options For Organic Tomato Production
April 24, 2015
As part of a series of free educational webcasts on The Plant Management Network, a presentation on weed control considerations Read More
ProductionpH Reducer Certified For Use In Organic Production
April 24, 2015
Growth Products Ltd. announced that pH Reducer has been certified as a Registered Material for Use in Organic Agriculture by Read More
FruitsEast, Midwest Braces For Cold Snap
April 24, 2015
Growers keep an eye on the thermometer as temperatures dip into the mid to low 20s. Read More
anthracnose of tomato; diseases of tomato; crop protection
Disease ControlAnthracnose Can Cause Red Alert For Tomato Growers
April 24, 2015
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this disease. Read More
UF Glow mandarin
Varieties & RootstocksFlorida Citrus Growers Vie For Chance To Plant Experimental Selections
April 23, 2015
Meetings set to support launch of rapid release program’s third suite of new varieties. Read More
Apples & PearsAPHIS Proposal To Allow Apples From China Becomes Rule
April 23, 2015
Growers in China expected to follow set standards of production to prevent possible importing of new pests. Read More
Havana, Cuba view
CitrusRenewed Relations With Cuba A Concern For Florida Growers [Opinion]
April 23, 2015
It might be said Sunshine State producers are worried if wider trade is opened as the potential for competing winter crops is real. Read More
7-6-27 mandarin hybrid
Varieties & Rootstocks4 Fresh Florida Citrus Selections To Watch For
April 22, 2015
Meet the newest group of UF/IFAS FAST TRACK release candidates. Read More
Tomato necrotic streak virus symptoms
TomatoesNew Virus Detected In South Florida Tomatoes
April 22, 2015
Infectious species said to be a distant relative of tobacco streak virus, which is the cause of bean red node. Read More
The Latest
Apple Grower of the YearTerhune Orchards Celebrates 40th Anniversary This Weeke…
April 24, 2015
It’s a Mount-u-mental celebration for the 2005 Apple Grower Of The Year and family. Read More
OrganicWebcast: Weed Control Options For Organic Tomato Produ…
April 24, 2015
As part of a series of free educational webcasts on The Plant Management Network, a presentation on weed control considerations Read More
ProductionpH Reducer Certified For Use In Organic Production
April 24, 2015
Growth Products Ltd. announced that pH Reducer has been certified as a Registered Material for Use in Organic Agriculture by Read More
FruitsEast, Midwest Braces For Cold Snap
April 24, 2015
Growers keep an eye on the thermometer as temperatures dip into the mid to low 20s. Read More
anthracnose of tomato; diseases of tomato; crop protection
Disease ControlAnthracnose Can Cause Red Alert For Tomato Growers
April 24, 2015
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this disease. Read More
UF Glow mandarin
Varieties & RootstocksFlorida Citrus Growers Vie For Chance To Plant Experime…
April 23, 2015
Meetings set to support launch of rapid release program’s third suite of new varieties. Read More
Apples & PearsAPHIS Proposal To Allow Apples From China Becomes Rule
April 23, 2015
Growers in China expected to follow set standards of production to prevent possible importing of new pests. Read More
Havana, Cuba view
CitrusRenewed Relations With Cuba A Concern For Florida Growe…
April 23, 2015
It might be said Sunshine State producers are worried if wider trade is opened as the potential for competing winter crops is real. Read More
7-6-27 mandarin hybrid
Varieties & Rootstocks4 Fresh Florida Citrus Selections To Watch For
April 22, 2015
Meet the newest group of UF/IFAS FAST TRACK release candidates. Read More
Tomato necrotic streak virus symptoms
TomatoesNew Virus Detected In South Florida Tomatoes
April 22, 2015
Infectious species said to be a distant relative of tobacco streak virus, which is the cause of bean red node. Read More
Apples & PearsFruit Processor To Expand Operations In Virginia
April 22, 2015
Andros Foods North America to invest $73 million in area and hiring 160. Read More
FruitsOverturned Truck Dumps Millions Of Bees On Highway
April 22, 2015
The truck with 448 hives was headed to a farm in Washington. Read More
Crop ProtectionBrandt Adds Zonix Biofungicide To Portfolio
April 21, 2015
Brandt, a manufacturer of agricultural specialty products, has added Zonix biofungicide to its line of organic and sustainable products. Zonix, manufactured Read More
CitrusFarm Bureau Supports Bill To Halt Controversial WOTUS R…
April 21, 2015
 Legislation would force EPA and the U.S. Army of Engineers to withdraw Waters of the United States proposal. Read More
EquipmentResearchers Seeking Agricultural Applications For Unman…
April 21, 2015
From stress detection to yield estimation, technology offers promise in farming. Read More
CitrusRecord Number Of Organic Producers In U.S.
April 21, 2015
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services says domestic production has increased by 250% across all markets since 2002. Read More
FertilizerVerdesian Life Sciences Introduces New Phosphite-Free P…
April 21, 2015
Product designed as alternative for nut and stone fruit growers with concerns about MRLs. Read More
Disease ControlNew Fungicide For Wide Range Of Fruits, Vegetables In C…
April 21, 2015
FMC officially enters biological marketplace with first sales of Fracture fungicide. Read More