Joining forces on agrosecurity
New network for Southwestern producers
Wealth from the wind
Stimulating rural agricultural enterprise
Issues In Depth
Breaking down the “wall” between agriculture and economic development
Eco-labeling goes online
Joining forces on agrosecurity: Even before the events of September 11, the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC) issued a call for a multi-agency strategy to coordinate and strengthen the U.S. research investment in food security, public health and the environment. NASULGC’s proposal for a new federal initiative that recognizes the interdependence of food, health and the environment may receive a boost from the Bush Administration’s recently announced homeland security effort. Headed by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), NASULGC’s proposed working group would include NIH, NSF, DOE, EPA and USAID, in addition to USDA. Talks are underway between NASULGC, OSTP, and several partner agencies. For more information on NASULGC’s proposed initiative, see http://www.nasulgc.org/initiatives.htm and http://www.nasulgc.org/publications/Kellogg/FoodSociety3.pdf.
New network for Southwestern producers: As part of its effort to expand markets for an often-overlooked segment of US agriculture-small-scale, alternative and minority farmers and ranchers-the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is developing a directory of minority producers in the Four Corners area of AZ, CO, NM and UT. The voluntary registry, which will help producers plug into training, information and networking opportunities under development by NCAT, responds to the USDA Commission on Small Farms directive for a long-awaited national roster of minority producers. The NCAT registry will serve as a model for subsequent USDA efforts in the Southwest and in other parts of the country. For more on the NCAT program, see http://www.attra.org/attra-digest/news0402.pdf.
Wealth from the wind: While much of the policy debate on renewable energy has focused on large-scale wind projects owned and operated by non-farm concerns, American Corn Growers Foundation (ACGF) seeks to involve smaller farmers in the ownership of wind energy through the development of farmer-owned wind power cooperatives. Farmers inclined to invest in wind power will find support in the new federal farm bill, which contains provisions, backed by ACGF, to allow for construction of wind turbines on Conservation Reserve Program acres. A survey on wind energy and climate change conducted by ACGF found that a majority of farmers favor adding windpower to the mix of renewable farm energy sources. For a report on the ACGF survey findings, see http://www.acgf.org/programs/2001WindCCS/.
Stimulating rural agricultural enterprise: Case studies of rural organizers who are successfully facilitating new agricultural marketing and value-added opportunities for small farmers in the five-state Mississippi Delta region are available from Delta Land & Community’s Delta Enterprise Network at http://www.deltanetwork.org/skills/cases/casestudies.htm.
Breaking down the “wall” between agriculture and economic development: An essential group of stakeholders-regional and state economic development officials-are often missing when it comes to decisions affecting the protection of farmers and farmland. Efforts are underway in several states, including Michigan and Pennsylvania, to reintegrate agriculture into local planning and decision making by touting the economic benefits of entrepreneurial agriculture. The aim is to build civic awareness of the economic value to communities of rebuilding their local agricultural sectors, enhancing food security and preserving farms and farmland with innovative small-farm opportunities.
In Southwestern Pennsylvania, local officials scaled the wall between farming and non-farming business development when they saw that agriculture represented more employment and sales in the area than they could hope to bring in with planned efforts to lure high-tech industry to the region. In partnership with the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission, a nine-county development agency has created a regional advisory board that brought together economic developers, local government officials and community planners for the first time with farmers, consumers and agricultural agencies. The result is a range of new farm-to-market initiatives aimed at increasing the number of farmers in the region.
Southwestern Pennsylvania’s model is being eyed by Michigan Land Use Institute (MLUI), which has launched a new project to bring local economic development officials back to the table with innovative agricultural producers. MLUI wants to convince state and local economic officials to give entrepreneurial farms and farmers similar levels of financial and technical support that they now provide to non-farm businesses. To this end, MLUI has assembled a new report which identifies numerous successful farm ventures in Michigan to illustrate the economic benefits of entrepreneurial agriculture. MLUI’s report, The New Entrepreneurial Agriculture is available at http://mlui.org/projects/farmlandconservation/newag.pdf.
Eco-labeling goes online: Policymakers and consumers alike seeking a reliable resource on sustainably grown food can find a wealth of useful information on The Food Alliance’s (TFA) Website at www.thefoodalliance.org. TFA’s “seal of approval” guarantees that food has come from a farm or ranch practicing sustainable agriculture. The organization’s eco-labeling and certification models were developed in the Pacific Northwest and recently expanded to the Midwest. TFA’s website highlights information on environmentally and socially responsible farmers in these regions who meet TFA’s strict standards in the areas of pest & disease management, soil and water conservation and human resources development. Easy-to-use search features list farmer’s markets, roadside stands, grocery stores and online sources for these products.