Scaling sustainable agriculture requires a new level of collaboration
Nov. 23, 2020
Farmers have made meaningful progress in adopting conservation practices, but the value chain will need to ramp up its support at the farm level if this progress is to be scaled substantially, according to "The State of Sustainable Ag," which outlines new research from Farm Journal's Trust In Food initiative and Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture with research support provided by Aimpoint Research.
"Our report clearly spells out that a majority of row-crop farmers are incorporating conservation ag practices into their operations," said Amy Skoczlas Cole, executive vice president for Trust In Food. "But very few of them report they are seeing financial benefits for doing so. There's no doubt that there are long-term benefits to conservation agriculture, but we need much deeper collaboration with consumers and the food industry to more fairly allocate the risk and cost associated with change."
To help catalyze the rate and scale at which farm-level changes are made, Trust In Food and Field to Market surveyed American farmers on their perceptions surrounding conservation ag practices. The resulting report, "The State of Sustainable Ag," highlights responses from more than 500 farmers across the nation.
Key findings include:
• Nearly all survey respondents indicate they are currently implementing to some extent, or have tried, at least one conservation practice
• 62% believe that implementing conservation practices typically improves a farming operation's profitability in the long term
• However, only 15% have received better market access or additional revenue because of implemented conservation farming practices
• 74% responded that they believe farmers should receive monetary incentives for using certain production practices that benefit the public good
• 65% of farmers currently do not use farm management software solutions
• 84% do not use sustainability reporting platforms, which demonstrates significant room for growth in data-driven management decisions and supply chain reporting
Farm-level production practices play a critical role in conservation and sustainability efforts for food, fuel, feed and fiber supply chains. To build resilience, improve environmental and economic outcomes and ensure positive social impacts, rapid and large-scale farm-level changes must be made.
"This research demonstrates that farmers understand the long-term benefit of conservation practices; however, short-term risks to productivity and profitability often create barriers to adoption," said Rod Snyder, president for Field to Market. "The entire value chain must work together to strengthen the business case for sustainability through science-based, data-driven and locally relevant solutions."
The full report can be viewed here.
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