With global demand for food, feed, fiber and energy on the rise, the need for critical ecosystem services like flood control, water filtration, biodiversity and carbon sequestration is even greater. The development of new, renewable energy resources from our nation’s farm, ranches and forestlands brings with it the responsibility of sustainably maintaining the land from which those resources can be cultivated.
Solutions from the Land, a collaboration of diverse stakeholders, this week released a report that identifies five broad challenges around which future policies, practices and land management approaches might be constructed.
While the report was developed to help jumpstart a solutions-oriented, forward-looking conversation about America’s agricultural and forestry future, the 25x’25 Alliance also sees the document as a critical tool available to renewable energy stakeholders to help sustain the resources needed to produce new, clean energy.
Among the challenges identified by the report, “Developing a New Vision for United States Agriculture, Forestry, and Conservation,” is the loss of working lands. Between 1982 and 2007, the United States lost 39 million acres of cropland, pasture, rangeland and forest land to development, a conversion that stresses ecosystems and puts limits on future production.
Also, there are conflicting policies and inadequate rewards for ecosystem services. As an example, while existing policies encourage farmers to create wetlands that can absorb nutrient runoff, many agricultural producers are afraid to do so out of fear that their construction will trigger new restrictions on how they can manage their operations.
There is a decline in investments in research into innovative – but essential – land management practices and technologies. And there is the growing instability of climate conditions that is changing the way producers meet consumer needs. Add in volatile markets, and they all present increased risk, particularly for small producers.
“A New Vision” identifies ways to address these challenges, including the implementation of landscape-scale solutions through coalitions of multiple stakeholders, and the harmonization of policy to eliminate conflicts and redundant paperwork. The development of a clear system to measure the value of ecosystem services and reward that stewardship is also recommended, as is an energized and coordinated approach to land management research. The report also calls for the development of a modern, network-oriented system that can readily share information on sustainable practices.
The 25x’25 Alliance is joining efforts by Solutions from the Land to encourage groups and individuals to engage in a national conversation that will further address the challenges and develop workable solutions that can realistically be delivered from the land.
It is a widely supported endeavor, drawing the backing of leaders here in the United States and globally.
Harris Sherman, USDA Under Secretary of Natural Resources and the Environment, says the challenges facing today’s farmers, ranchers, forest landowners and federal land managers require “now more than ever, a fresh, collaborative approach.” Sherman says the opportunity presented by the Solutions from the Land allows stakeholders “to address what may be our greatest needs: maintaining adaptive, resilient ecosystems; boosting productivity while reducing unnecessary waste and consumption; and building incentives and policies for enhanced stewardship.”
Meanwhile, Dan Gustafson, deputy director of General Operations with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, points out that many of the “most pressing issues are truly complex problems.” And while he notes that there is no one “in charge,” Gustafson asserts that “an array of institutions, policies, and actors all play a role, against the backdrop of very rapid change.” He says that Solutions from the Land “provides an outstanding example of how to tackle this complexity, first as a process that brought together different perspectives and expertise, and now as an action plan, identifying what needs to done across the spectrum of necessary change.”
To read the full report and find more information on opportunities to get involved in the Solutions from the Land conversation on land management issues, visit the collaboration’s Web site at www.sfldialogue.net.
The 25x’25 Alliance encourages all stakeholders to join in SFL’s mission to insure food, feed fiber and energy are provided in a sustainable way that protects and enhances the environment.