Sustainability is meeting the needs of the present while improving the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
NCGA is proud to be part of Field to Market: The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, a collaborative stakeholder group involving producers, agribusinesses, food and retail companies, and conservation organizations striving to develop a supply chain system for agricultural sustainability.
Field to Market focuses on these specific, critical outcomes: increasing agricultural productivity to meet future nutritional needs while decreasing impacts on the environment, including water, soil, habitat, air quality and climate emissions, and land use; improving human health through access to safe, nutritious food; and improving the social and economic well-being of agricultural communities.
In its first report, issued in January 2009, the alliance looked at environmental resource indicators in five areas: water use and quality, land use and biodiversity, soil loss, energy use and climate impact. The report reviewed indicators for corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat and reported on progress from 1987 to 2007.
In July 2012, its second report on sustainability and today’s 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.
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.