April 14, 1995

April 14, 1995…Ames, Iowa…A new report, Sustainable Agriculture and the 1995 Farm Bill, The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) has released a summary of the "Sustainable Agriculture and the 1995 Farm Bill" conference. More than 60 scientists, policymakers, and others addressed 200 attendees at the January conference. Sessions addressed legislation, conservation, the environment, rural development, research, and education.
CAST organized the conference to provide a forum for debating potential policy issues that Congress will be addressing soon. Guest speakers at the conference included Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture; and Rep. Wayne Allard (R-CO) and Rep. Charles W. Stenholm (D-TX), members of the House Committee on Agriculture.
"Although there are many conferences on sustainable agriculture, few conferences have included the diversity of stakeholders involved in the CAST conference," said Paula B. Ford of the Southern Region SARE/ACE Program at the Georgia Experiment Station, Griffin, report cochair. "Yet despite this diversity conference participants identified common ground on a number of issues on sustainable agriculture and the 1995 Farm Bill."
Given the current budgetary climate, the commodity stabilization and price support focus of previous farm bills likely will be redirected toward programs emphasizing global competitiveness, market forces, and environmental management. The principles that agricultural systems must be environmentally, economically, and socially sound were held by most participants, regardless of their specific interests in the agricultural system.
Speakers and members of the seven conference panels said:
  • Support programs should not dissuade farmers from adopting practices that enhance the environment.
·          Conservation programs merit government support and should be targeted at environmentally vulnerable areas--a determination that should be based on ecosystems and watersheds instead of on individual fields.

·          In developing the 1995 Farm Bill, related programs should be reviewed and coordinated to foster the leveraging of state and local funds for environmental protection.

·          The federal government should create a broad definition of sustainable agriculture and design agricultural policies to achieve related goals. The definition used to develop policy should take a systems approach, placing land-use practices in a whole-farm and ecosystem context.
·          For farmers to be both competitors in the global economy and stewards of the natural resource base, the 1995 bill should encourage innovation and responsiveness to market forces as well as environmental integrity. Programs should provide flexibility and incentives for farmers to adopt agricultural practices and to develop systems protecting the environment and increasing profitability.  
  • The farm bill and related legislation should integrate and consolidate overlapping environmental regulations, and regulations should be replaced, where appropriate, with incentives.
  • Research should focus on the identification of indicators of environmental sustainability and on the ongoing development of environmentally sound management.
  • Vital rural communities, which depend on strong agricultural sectors, are important. A significant portion of the farm population relies on off-farm income, making the development of local enterprises key to the development of many rural communities.
The report summarizes a series of talks and a panel discussion on the research and education agenda. Items on the agenda include conserving and enhancing resources and biodiversity, enhancing food safety, empowering people economically and socially, and enhancing agricultural markets, competitiveness, and rural development.
The summary of "Sustainable Agriculture and the 1995 Farm Bill" was written by a task force of 16 scientists cochaired by Neville P. Clarke of the Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors, College Station and by Paula B. Ford of the Southern Region SARE/ACE Program at the Georgia Experiment Station, Griffin.
Copies of the summary document are $50 from CAST, 4420 West Lincoln Way, Ames, IA 50014-3447, (515) 292-2125. CAST identifies food and fiber, environmental, and other agricultural issues and interprets related scientific research information for legislators, regulators, and the media for use in public policy decision making. CAST is a nonprofit organization composed of 30 scientific societies and many individual, student, company, nonprofit, and associate society members.