Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Expert panel calls for 'transforming US agriculture': Changes in markets, policies and science needed for more sustainable farming

Date:
May 5, 2011
Source:
Washington State University
Summary:
A group of leading scientists, economists and farmers is calling for a broad shift in federal policies to speed They say current policies focus on the production of a few crops and a minority of farmers while failing to address farming's contribution to global warming, biodiversity loss, natural resource degradation and public health problems.

Experts are calling for a broad shift in federal policies to speed the development of farm practices that are more economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable.
Credit: © DeshaCAM / Fotolia

A group of leading scientists, economists and farmers is calling for a broad shift in federal policies to speed the development of farm practices that are more economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable.

Writing in the journal Science, they say current policies focus on the production of a few crops and a minority of farmers while failing to address farming's contribution to global warming, biodiversity loss, natural resource degradation, and public health problems.

"We have the technology and the science right now to grow food in sustainable ways, but we lack the policies and markets to make it happen," says John Reganold, a Washington State University soil scientist and the Science paper's lead author. Starting in the late 1980s, Reganold pioneered several widely cited side-by-side comparisons showing organic farming systems were more earth-friendly than conventional systems while producing more nutritious and sometimes tastier food. His Science co-authors include more than a dozen other leading soil, plant, and animal scientists, economists, sociologists, agroecologists and farmers.

The Science paper grows out of several national efforts to address concerns about farming's impact on the environment, including the landmark 1989 National Research Council report, Alternative Agriculture, which recommended greater research and education efforts into sustainable farming. All the authors of the Science paper wrote the council's 2010 update, Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century.

The paper is particularly critical of the Farm Bill, which is slated for renewal next year. While only one-third of farmers receive payments under the bill, it has an outsized influence on production. It does little to promote sustainability, write the authors, while "distorting market incentives and making our food system overly dependent on a few grain crops mainly used for animal feed and highly processed food, with deleterious effects on the environment and human health." Environmental impacts, says Reganold, include overdrawn aquifers, eroded soil and polluted water.

Meanwhile, he says, agricultural research and the field of "agroecology," which adapts the principles of nature to farming systems, are finding new ways to grow abundant and affordable food while protecting the environment, helping farm finances, and contributing to the well-being of farmers, farm workers and rural communities. Consumers -- whose concerns range from farm working conditions to animal welfare to food safety -- are seeking out organic and alternatively grown foods at grocery stores, farmer's markets, food coops, Community Supported Agriculture networks, and large outlets like Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, even Costco.

The mounting environmental impacts of agriculture call for a transformation that can be sped up by shifting federal support to research, policies and markets that support more benign alternative farming systems.

"We need to move more quickly," says Reganold. "Why are we supporting big, mainstream agriculture that's not necessarily protecting or benefiting the environment? Why don't we support innovative farming systems of all sizes that produce food sustainably?"


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington State University. The original article was written by Eric Sorensen, WSU science writer. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. P. Reganold, D. Jackson-Smith, S. S. Batie, R. R. Harwood, J. L. Kornegay, D. Bucks, C. B. Flora, J. C. Hanson, W. A. Jury, D. Meyer, A. Schumacher, Jr., H. Sehmsdorf, C. Shennan, L. A. Thrupp, and P. Willis. Transforming U.S. Agriculture. Science, 2011; 332 (6030): 670-671 DOI: 10.1126/science.1202462

Cite This Page:

Washington State University. "Expert panel calls for 'transforming US agriculture': Changes in markets, policies and science needed for more sustainable farming." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110505142600.htm>.
Washington State University. (2011, May 5). Expert panel calls for 'transforming US agriculture': Changes in markets, policies and science needed for more sustainable farming. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110505142600.htm
Washington State University. "Expert panel calls for 'transforming US agriculture': Changes in markets, policies and science needed for more sustainable farming." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110505142600.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) — Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

AP (July 31, 2014) — With Florida's panther population rebounding, some ranchers complain the protected predators are once again killing their calves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) — Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) — Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins