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Where have we been? Where are we now? What have we learned? Douglas Jackson-Smith Utah State University.

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Presentation on theme: "Where have we been? Where are we now? What have we learned? Douglas Jackson-Smith Utah State University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Where have we been? Where are we now? What have we learned? Douglas Jackson-Smith Utah State University

2 Times Have Changed Expanded attention to environmental footprint of agriculture – BMPs & conservation practices – Conservation Tillage, Crop Rotation Improved resource use efficiencies – Total factor productivity – Energy intensity Substantial growth in ‘alternative’ prod systems – Organics, alternative livestock, local

3 What is Sustainable Agriculture? Two Tracks – Treatment of ‘sustainable agriculture’ as alternative to mainstream agriculture (ALT) Organics Alt livestock production systems Alt FOOD systems – Treatment of ‘sustainable agriculture’ as any instances of environmental improvement in mainstream agriculture (SOFT) Conservation programs = sustainable agriculture? Precision agriculture High output systems can have low impact/unit output

4 “Alternative” Sust. Agr. Track Drivers – Market demand, Producer Innovation – Public Research & Policy (SARE, Alt Markets) Strengths – Focused energy, filled gaps – Producer-focused efforts (often lead the way) – Often transformative Limitations – Tiny Footprint (<1% land, livestock, output) – Can divert attention from rest of ag sector

5 “Soft” Sust. Agr. Track Drivers – Policy Incentives & Regulation – Private & Public Research Strengths – Incremental Changes, large footprint – Addresses specific problems Limitations – Limited def. of sustainability (narrow focus) – Can generate unintended consequences (fails to capture synergies, predict tradeoffs)

6 New NRC Report Sustainability = not particular practice, but property of systems, evaluated with respect to four goals 1.Production 2.Environment 3.Economic Viability 4.Social Welfare Tradeoffs & synergies likely Recognize value both tracks to move us forward – Incremental – Transformative

7 What Kind of Science Needed? KEY FEATURES – More Environmental, Economic, Policy, Social Science – TRANSdisciplinary science & “systems” studies Integrating parts Emergent systems properties (especially resilience) – Across scales (field  farm  landscape) – Fully engage farmers & stakeholders Adaptive & participatory Science

8 Hardly New Ruttan “Agricultural Research Policy” (1982) “Alternative Agriculture” NRC Report (1989) CAST Report “Confronting Ag Research” (1994) 10 Separate NRC Reports (since Alt Agr) 2009: Transforming Agricultural Education for a Changing World. 2008: Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing Research at NIOSH. 2003: Frontiers in Agricultural Research: Food, Health, Environment and Communities. 2002: Publicly Funded Agricultural Research and the Changing Structure of US Agriculture. 2000: NRI: A Vital Competitive Grants Program in Food, Fiber and Natural Resources Research. 1999: Sowing the Seeds of Change: Informing Public Policy in the Economic Research Service of USDA. 1996: Colleges of Agriculture at the Land Grant Universities: Public Service and Public Policy. 1995: Colleges of Agriculture at the Land Grant Universities: A Profile. 1994: Investing in the NRI: An Update of the Competitive Grants Program of the USDA. 1989: Investing in Research: A Proposal to Strengthen the Agricultural, Food and Environmental System.

9 Science Responses – SOFT Path Most research = still productivity oriented Some expanded beyond production to include specific environmental aspects More multidisciplinary projects – Tendency for parallel play Most = solving narrowly construed problems Few systems comparisons or holistic analyses

10 Very small fraction of the private & public science effort Facilitated producer innovation (esp. SARE) Some on-farm collaboration w/ scientists Limited visibility in peer reviewed agricultural science journals Alternative marketing & food systems focus of much social & economic research Science Responses – ALT Path

11 Why Slow Response? Incentive Systems for Private Science Incentive Systems for Public Science – Research Funding Opportunities Disciplinary constituencies for traditional programs Designing innovative science programs Funding panels Encouraging submissions – University Institutional Environments

12 Bringing Two “Tracks” Together MAINSTREAMING ‘ALT’ SUSTAINABILITY – Many lessons relevant for all production systems – Soften boundaries: purist approaches limit impacts – Maintain producer leadership but connect more to visible science DEEPENING ‘SOFT’ SUSTAINABILITY – Broadening from production and environmental goals – Understand systems properties; tradeoffs, synergies



15 AFRI FY 2009 57 % plant and animal productivity research 18 % food safety 17 % renewable energy, natural resources, and the environment 5 % agricultural economics and rural communities 3 % agricultural systems

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