(Posted Thu. Jul 12th, 2012)
July 12: A new report on sustainability and today’s agriculture, released today by Field to Market: A Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, revealed that our nation’s corn farmers have a good story to tell, with improvement across all metrics.
“What makes the Field to Market tools appealing to farmers is their real-world application,” said Gary Edwards, a corn grower from Anamosa, Iowa, who serves as a National Corn Growers Association representative to Field to Market. “Because the metrics used were developed from discussions among the folks who would use them, they fit the nature and scope of the work being done. To make a profit, farmers need to sustain both the land and the business, and the exciting take-away from this report is that we now have the means to show you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.
Field to Market is a diverse alliance of stakeholders working to measure and promote continuous improvement for agriculture. Its updated report used a study period of 1980-2011 for the environmental indicators, added more crops and offers a look at some socioeconomic indicators.
Environmental indicators looked at water use and quality, land use and biodiversity, soil loss, energy use and climate impact. Corn improved on all measures of resource efficiency, decreasing per-bushel land use by 30 percent, soil erosion by 67 percent, irrigation by 53 percent, energy use by 43 percent and greenhouse gas emission by 36 percent. At the same time, corn increased 101 percent in total production and 64 percent in yield bushels per acre.
New socioeconomic indicators measure debt, returns, GDP, labor hours, injuries, fatalities and production time. For example, the time to produce corn decreased both per acre (59 percent) and per bushel (75 percent), incidences of one or more work days lost due to injury decreased by 49 percent and fatalities decreased by 32 percent. The national growth rate trend has increased 69 percent for the agricultural sector contribution to national gross domestic product.
“This is a great time to be a farmer,” Edwards said. “The productivity and sustainability of the modern American farm should be an inspiration to all – and the positive economic impact of what we do must always be a part of the story.”
Field to Market is developing and piloting scalable, science- and outcome-based sustainable metrics and tools to identify strategies for continuous improvement in agriculture. These tools are the result of dialogue with farmers, agribusinesses, food and retail companies and conservation organizations, which is grounded in science and open to the full range of technology choices available.