The financial and risk-reducing benefits of conservation practices such as cover crops and conservation tillage are increasingly evident, said the AGree Initiative on farm policy in a report on Tuesday. "Further, ecosystem services markets may provide farmers with new economic opportunities to diversify their income," said the report, aimed in part at farm lenders.
The Agriculture Department should be a leader in facilitating data collection, utilization, sharing and research, said the AGree farm policy initiative and the Data Foundation on Tuesday. "The time has come for USDA and the policy community to consider how to accomplish the joint objective of protecting critical data while also allowing its use to answer critical questions," said the organizations in a white paper that encouraged interagency sharing of information.
The government and private sector will have roles in maintaining the progress made by the pioneers of climate-smart agriculture, said a group of experts working through the AGree farm-policy initiative on Tuesday. They recommended lower crop insurance premiums for farmers who use practices that reduce agricultural risk, bank lending policies that recognize the benefits of conservation practices, expansion of USDA stewardship programs, and inclusion of "early innovators" in the supply chain sustainability programs of food and beverage companies.
Economic concerns are often a driving factor when farmers decide whether to adopt conservation practices such as cover crops or diversified crop rotations, said the AGree farm policy initiative in a paper released on Wednesday. The paper called for more coordination of conservation practices with the taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance system.
Food and agriculture are getting short shrift in the presidential campaign, despite Iowa's role as the starting point in the race for the White House, say the three co-chairs of the AGree food policy project. They called on the candidates to elevate food and agricultural policy.
The AGree policy initiative called for greater funding for the U.S. agricultural and food research system, coupled with an updated list of priorities for publicly funded research.
Former deputy agriculture secretary Kathleen Merrigan will become a co-chair of the AGree farm-policy initiative, succeeding Gary Hirshberg, founder of the organic food company Stonyfield Farm. Hirshberg is a leader in the campaign to label GMO foods. As a Senate staff worker, Merrigan had a key role in legislation creating the national organic program in 1990 and in implementing it nearly a decade later at the USDA. She was deputy secretary from 2009-13.
Farmers and urban water systems can work together to improve water quality, says a white paper that presents nine examples from upstate New York to the Everglades and California.
The AGree project, a multiyear endeavor to reach consensus among food and farm leaders, released a package of four papers that call for substantial remodeling of U.S. conservation, public nutrition and food aid programs as well as comprehensive immigration reform.
The three-year-old AGree project on food and agriculture policy "is pivoting into action," said co-chair Gary Hirshberg during a "Future of Food" forum.
AgSec Vilsack mentioned during the House hearing a possible "food corps" to provide mentoring and training for young people interested in farming.