Field to Market Honorees Exemplify Ambition of Sustainable Development Goals

October 10, 2019

National Farmer’s Day, an acknowledgement of the hard work that goes into feeding and supplying a nation, will be observed this Saturday, Oct. 12. The day acknowledges and thanks farmers for the hard work they do every day to supply safe and abundant food, feed, fiber and fuel for our nation.

Those with a presence on Twitter or LinkedIn will likely have seen the Farmer Spotlight Series, a collection of posts from Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (F2M) that recognizes operators who are championing sustainability on their farms and ranches.

F2M is a collaboration of more than 140 diverse members, including Solutions from the Land (SfL); grower organizations; agribusinesses; food, beverage, restaurant and retail companies; conservation groups; universities and public sector partners. Like many of those operating as part of the agricultural supply chain, F2M members aim to create productive and profitable opportunities for agriculture’s continuous and sustainable improvements in environmental outcomes.

The F2M honorees and their operations reflect the ideals promoted by SfL’s ongoing vision: By 2030, America’s farms, ranches and forests are at the forefront of resolving food system, energy, environmental and climate challenges, as well as achieving the ambitious global sustainable development goals (SDGs).

SDGs, which were adopted by world leaders in 2015, represent an urgent call to action for all countries – developed and developing – to work together and among other imperatives end hunger, improve food security and nutrition, and build resilience to a changing climate’s negative impacts.

The goals offer a platform upon which today’s farmers, ranchers and foresters, not to mention researchers and others who support the agriculture sector, can stand united in a vision for the future and develop the strategies needed to deal with the challenges ahead. The SDGs, which are interdependent, cannot be fully achieved without sustainably managed agricultural landscapes. These require collaboration among diverse stakeholders at every scale, from global conversations like the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) to SfL’s extensive work at the state level.

SfL’s guiding Pathways Report and recent projects in Ohio and Florida have focused on engaging producers directly to better understand both the challenges they face in a changing climate, and the tools they are developing to overcome them through adaptation, resilience and mitigation. They provide roadmaps to what farmers like those spotlighted by F2M need at the state and national level to reach the global milestones that the SDGs prescribe.

The report “Ohio Smart Agriculture: Solutions from the Land – A Call to Action for Ohio’s Food System and Agricultural Economy” describes the result of this multi-stakeholder process in the Buckeye State. The four initiatives identified by the farmer-led Steering Committee are to: make Ohio agriculture and the food system a public policy priority; diversify and sustainably intensify the production of food, feed, fiber and fuel; use institutional buying power to ramp up demand for “Ohio Smart Food,” and implement landscape-scale, climate-smart agriculture strategies to ensure sustainability and decrease agricultural runoff. To accomplish these initiatives, 50 pathways to transform Ohio’s food economy by 2050 were also identified.

Goals like “harmonize tax incentives to protect working lands” and “develop a brand and recognition for Ohio farm products of all kinds, including ecosystems services” are consistent with the farmer needs identified by SfL’s Pathways Report: harmonization of conflicting policy frameworks, public/private sector partnerships to accomplish these goals, and perhaps most importantly, enabling policies and market mechanisms that recognize and reward the delivery of environmental solutions from the land.

Through an SfL-facilitated dialogue, Florida’s agricultural leaders are even now sharing ideas with policy makers and stepping forward to lead the discussion on proposals to help keep their operations sustainable, productive and economically viable; all while providing food, feed, fuel and fiber, as well as landscape benefits such as carbon sequestration, water filtration and biodiversity.

While the SDGs promoted by global leaders are vast in scope, they serve to remind us of how resilient, innovative and forward-thinking those in the agricultural sector can be. There’s no reason not to believe that those in U.S. agriculture – from the national and state levels to the individual farmers cited by F2M – can offer the world meaningful pathways toward achieving the SDGs.

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An Agricultural Renaissance, led by innovative and entrepreneurial farmers, ranchers and foresters constructing sustainable, profitable and resilient systems that lay the foundation for a world of abundance on many scales capable of producing nutritious food, feed, fiber, clean energy, healthy ecosystems, quality livelihoods, and strong rural economies.