No. 13 Article 2/July 2, 2010

National Research Council Publishes Report on U.S. Agriculture

Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century has just been published (June 29) by the National Research Council and is available online. This report outlines many of the important strengths of modern agricultural practices but also describes some of the unintended negative consequences of these productivity gains.

It also offers many recommendations that are worthy of strong consideration by the agricultural community. One in particular caught my attention (page 530): "The U.S. Department of Agriculture should partner with the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, key land-grant universities, and farmer-led sustainable agricultural organizations to develop a long-term research and extension initiative that aims to understand the aggregate effects of farming at a landscape or watershed scale and to devise, encourage, and support the development of collective institutions that could enhance environmental quality while simultaneously sustaining economic viability and community well-being."

The land-grant system should play a key role in implementing many of the report's recommendations. Unfortunately, many states are struggling to sustain the foundations of their land-grant institutions.--Mike Gray

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