Why Does USDA Talk Sustainability While directing Our Tax $ to Unsustainable Systems?


Answer from a USDA scientist

That’s a very good question. It seems to me that there is a diligent undercurrent of sustainable agriculture, and that SARE and other USDA initiatives are doing their share to help to assist and lead sustainable agricultural development in the United States. But I think that sustainable agriculture is too often seen by the larger agricultural community, be if researchers or farmers or feds, as a niche market (which is also what they say about organics). I think that the USDA-ARS does better than most in trying to orient all research toward sustainability of food and fiber production. But they don’t seem to moralize beyond that, and we would need a congress interested in changing the food system to truly create a mandate, similar to what was done in forming the soil conservation service, and is currently being forwarded through the USDA-NRCS in terms of cleaning up agricultural effects. But that is not a fundamental change in the systems of production away from petroleum-based management any more than there is a true change toward reducing petroleum consumption. The world population keeps growing, and that creates the excuse for letting agri-industry supply it with food – sometimes good food, all too often careless manufactured food. And of course that has to do with capitalism and global agri-food systems and crop subsidies and the fact that chemical agriculture produces massive yields. Change needs to come from the citizens, and science needs to provide the tools for changing.


2 Responses to “Why Does USDA Talk Sustainability While directing Our Tax $ to Unsustainable Systems?”

  1. kerstis Says:

    I appreciate this prompt response. It shows that others are thinking about our food system. However Capitalism the current popular whipping boy for everything that is wrong in society is misdirected. The answer is to unleash the most powerful economic system ever and take advantage of the failure of current agriculture systems in a positive way. The farmers in Texas and even in liberal California are doing this. All we need is for the government to get out of the way and let the free system work.
    Don Kerstetter

  2. Donald Kerstetter Says:

    USDA is the regulatory agency responsible for agriculture. Many grain farmers are violating the basic principles of soil management by using a mono-crop or 2-crop system. According to USDA’s ownsoils publication erosion is caused by two few live roots in the ground. A two crop system has live roots only a third of the time adding even one more crop would double the roots. President Clintons’ blue ribbon commission on Gulf Hypoxia recommended a 20% reduction in fertilizer application USDA should follow through on this recommendation. CAFO animal producers are creating a mess and should be required to clean it up. It seems to me that these three actions are the minimum that a responsible regulatory agency should do.

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