AGree, a broad group of farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses, environmentalists and otherexperts recently announced their Consensus reports and initiatives on critical issues facing food and agriculture.
In the Working Landscapes: Achieving Productivity, Profitability and EnvironmentalOutcomesreport,AGree calls for a shift in how conservation efforts are undertaken andfunded on working lands, and seeks to move toward watershed-scale partnership approaches. The second work area will focus on the integration of data and analysis across federal agencies and examine the need for and benefits of public-private data integration.
Several principles (first) identified in the Solutions from the Land (SfL) ~ Developing aNew Vision for United States Agriculture, Forestry and Conservationwereembraced inthe recommendations found in the Working Landscapes consensus report.
These include utilizing multi-stakeholder collaborative partnerships to advance projects that address both production and environmental sustainability—shifting focus from single commodities to a broader range of goods and services. This transition must take place alongside the pressures of an increasingly “urbanized” landscape, the loss of working lands, conflicting policies and rewards, declining investment in research and innovation and a changing climate.
Fundamental changes in land management must occur, says the SfL Pathways report, including the recommendations to implement landscape-scale solutions and partnerships, harmonize policy frameworks, reward stewardship of ecosystem services, energize and coordinate research, and transform and modernize information networks.
As a whole, AGree’s recommendations call for far-reaching changes to federal policy and private-sector action, and have significant implications for the food chain—from production and processing to consumption. Having reached consensus in several areas, the group will now focus on implementation and advocacy, through the use of initiatives and partnerships.
The AGree effort was led by well-known thought leaders in national and global agriculture including former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, and was comprised of both an advisory board and research board. Among the group’s advisory board members were SfL Board members A.G. Kawamura, Fred Yoder and Patrick O’Toole.
In addition, the SfL Pathways report and vision were highlighted at the 2014 NationalWorkshop on Large Landscape Conservationthatbrought together North Americanconservation practitioners and policy makers to look at the most effective tools, strategies and science to enhance large landscape initiatives.
While conservation innovation is not new in the United States, it is becoming more important as farmers, ranchers and foresters face greater climate, risk and economic challenges. Today’s conservation efforts are driven by an innovative approach known as large landscape conservation, in which public, private, academic and other non-profit resources collaborate to develop novel strategies to address modern conservation challenges.
How can conservation efforts best be evaluated? What are the policies and governance structures most suited to solve challenging environmental issues? Who are the leaders and organizations that can reach growers and foresters? What communications tools can be used to inform and educate key audiences?
These were just a few questions that participants grappled with at the conference. SfL Board members Sara Scherr, Pat O’Toole and Ernie Shea shared the lessons learned from the Pathways report in a session covering the integration of ecosystem conservation and agricultural production. “Especially important at this national conference were the SfL recommendations to harmonize policies to reduce unintended consequences for farmers, ranchers and foresters; and the importance incentives that encourage greater participation in conservation and other adaptive management practices,” says Shea. “As the primary managers of land in our country, producers deliver multiple solutions to environmental and adaptation challenges. It will take new efforts to make sure that producers and agricultural systems can keep pace with the rate of adaptation the evolving challenges require, that we realize the solutions and enhance rather than harm the agricultural economy.”