Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Farm Progress Show Roundtable Calls for Sustainability

Agriculture and sustainability was the topic of the press-only meeting at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa.

Panelists discussed how to define sustainability and how to achieve it. Michael Doane, Monsanto director of the sustainable yield initiative, has a concise definition for sustainability: Produce more, conserve more.

Peggie James, the Natural Resources Conservation Services liaison to the Nature Conservancy and current SWCS president, observed that public sentiment is more supportive of conservation planning than it has been in the past.

"The public is now willing to donate more funding to conservation planning on private lands," James said.

Other panels agreed and noted that agricultural companies and retailers are making sustainability a priority.

Fred Lucky, executive vice president at Bunge North America, said, "We're engaged on both sides of the supply chain, so we have a unique ear - we can hear what's going on. What we hear is, consumers are very interested in this subject… It's a loud signal we have to pay attention to."

To learn more about what Peggie James shared at the Farm Progress Show or to listen to her speech, visit http://agwired.com/2008/08/28/the-art-and-science-of-soil-conservation/.


Anonymous said...

Michael Doane's definition for sustainability "Produce more, conserve more" may not be all that original. I think it was back in the 70's, under Sec. Earl Butz, when the Soil Conservation Service had a PR campaign called "Produce More, Protect More."

However, in both cases the emphasis seems to be on production, rather than protection or conservation of our most basic natural resource, the soil. If we agree that improving soil quality enhances yields, then maybe our emphasis should be on "conservation." And, if we really want to focus on "sustainability" then conservation should be our highest priority.

Physicus said...

I agree with dkesselring that conservation should be of highest priority. What I find curious (and perhaps frustrating) is that there seems to be a disconnect between agricultural production and conservation/sustainability among conservationists and producers alike. Soil quality (the capacity of the soil to function)should be top priority with every agricultural producer and conservationist just as the capacity of a factory to produce automobiles would be top priority to an automobile manufacturer. The issue at hand is that the folks managing the "soil factory" do not understand what is responsible for the productive capacity of the factory. With training, information and education on soil quality and how it is impacted by management, perhaps we can restore soil functions and the agricultural productivity hand in hand with the ecosystem services the soil is supposed to provide.