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Adaptability & Resilience

Agricultural Productivity and the Environment: Filling the Knowledge Gap

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Agriculture and the environment of our planet are closely linked. Farmers, ranchers, fishermen and those working daily to produce food and agriculture products understand the critical interface between their work and the natural resource base. But the very nature of agricultural production is changing at a rapid pace.


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Investing in sustainability

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Most of my career was spent as an economist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). One of the things I dreamed of was harnessing the power of markets to drive conservation on agricultural lands, especially cropland. We had hoped that environmental markets would create revenue opportunities for farmers. However,...

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Benefits of conserving agricultural practices

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Long-term practitioners of conservation agriculture speak glowingly of the benefits of their practices. Indiana farmer Ken Rulon has been using no-till for 20 years. “Our cost of production is far less per bushel with no-till,” he said. “The soil is healthier, and organic matter and earthworm populations are increasing.”

Unfortunately, like...

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Innovative options for addressing nonpoint-source pollution

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The Clean Water Act (CWA) nationalized the regulation of water quality, establishing the legal framework governing water pollution control in the United States. Since passage of the CWA in 1972, the United States has realized significant water quality improvements by reducing end-of-pipe emissions to surface waters. However, vexing water...

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U.S. Public Agricultural R&D in the 21st Century: Losing Ground?

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In 2010, U.S. agriculture produced nearly 38% of the entire world’s corn crop, 34% of world soybean production, and almost 20% of global pork and poultry production. The global prominence of U.S. production agriculture today was neither obvious nor a forgone conclusion a century ago. Several factors contributed.  First and...

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Feeding 9 billion people ... sustainably

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A number of forces are currently shaping and threatening the rural landscape around the world. 

First is continuing population growth. By 2050, the world’s population will grow from 6.8 billion to 9.0 billion, an increase of 32% and equal to about 7 times the size of the current U.S. population. With...

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Infrastructure for 21st Century Agriculture

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Precision agriculture integrates information technology and data to improve agricultural production decisions that enhance farm profitability and deliver environmental benefits

Much of the promise of this technology depends on soils information (See article, “Top 5 Tech Trends in Precision Ag for 2012.”) However, the soils information available through USDA’s...

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Beyond the Circular Firing Squad: Pragmatist Dietary Ethics and Animals

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If our treatment of those who are vulnerable and dependent may be taken as a test for our values, then there is, to paraphrase John Steinbeck, a failure that topples all our success exhibited by much of our treatment of vulnerable humans and animals. There are unavoidable implications of this...

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A victory for Western water users

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In early August, President Obama into law a pair of bills endorsed by the Family Farm Alliance aimed at promoting small hydropower development by streamlining the federal regulatory process for certain types of projects.



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Local partnerships can enhance nutrient stewardship

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Improving nutrient management is one of the many challenges facing U.S. agriculture. The Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone—which is linked, in part, to nutrient run-off from cropland in the Mississippi River basin—is arguably the most visible agricultural nutrient management challenge.

In 2007 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reassessed Gulf of...

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Multiple benefits in land-based solutions

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In today’s complex world, solutions often require collaborative efforts among multiple stakeholders who, for different reasons, share a common goal. Achieving workable solutions requires understanding of various perspectives on the issue and a willingness or flexibility to adapt.

Some would call it the ability to reach a compromise—you take the time...

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Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting

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Irrigation efficiency improvement projects have been implemented around the world with the expectation that improved irrigation efficiency would lead to increases in stream flows or groundwater supplies. Instead, the projects have lowered in-stream flows and accelerated declines in groundwater levels.

What has been overlooked is that in many projects, improved irrigation...

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The Impact of No Research Funding


2012 was almost a historic year in federal organic, as well as conventional, agriculture policy in the United States. With the 2008 Farm Bill set to expire on Sept. 30, 2012, both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees drafted new Farm Bills for passage before the onset of 2013, which...

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Attending to the needs of the soil


As the world gears-up to meet the needs of feeding nine billion people in 2050, a number of barriers need to be addressed.  Among these barriers are inadequate crop yields, food distribution problems and the potential adverse environmental effects of doubling food production. 

One of the foundational keys to maximizing production...

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Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture


How can we help U.S. farmers and ranchers meet growing national and global demand for food, feed, fiber and fuel in an increasingly sustainable manner? That question is at the crux of The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) strategy of “sustainable intensification of agriculture.” Indeed many agribusinesses, agricultural associations, food and beverage...

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Rockefeller Study in Perspective

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Jesse Ausubel and Iddo Wernick of Rockefeller University along with Paul Waggoner of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station recently published a study predicting a decline in the amount of land required globally in order to feed everyone. Their study, “Peak Farmland and the Prospects for Sparing Nature,” received wider than...

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A Manhattan "Fix" for Farming

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In recent weeks two separate New York Times columnists have suggested that America’s farmers should go back to traditional integrated crop and livestock systems with much longer crop rotations. Food writer Mark Bittman called this “A Simple Fix for Farming,” and Rural Life columnist Verlyn Klinkenborg said...

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Sustainable Health of the Food Supply

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First, thanks to Farm Foundation, NFP for the opportunity to launch my blogging career with a discussion about some very important issues that fall under the umbrella of the future of agriculture and feeding the world's population by 2050.

My company, Sustainable Food Development, is an agricultural consumer food...

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The Inputs Needed to Feed a Growing Population

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Hurricane Sandy showed us in a dramatic way just how vulnerable we are to a disruption in the availability of our most basic human needs: food, water and shelter.

We agricultural producers must consider the need to feed (and clothe) a world human population expected to reach well over...

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Risk, Resilience and Change

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These three words have been in my world quite frequently lately. I recently attended a workshop for nonprofit executive directors about balancing risk, change and stagnation—when NOT taking a risk can be catastrophic. The Sustainable Ag Food System Funders annual forum next year is titled, “Rethinking Risk and...

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The views and opinions expressed in AgChllenge2050 blog posts are solely the opinions of the authors, and not those of Farm Foundation, NFP.