5/8/2013 10:50:00 AM Farming and your freedom: Field-to-Market program seeks balance in agriculture
By Peter Graham Columnist
Oh, since we need to feed about 9 billion people by 2050, it would behoove us to form an organization to prompt us in doing so - sustainably. Done. The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture is moving along with its Field-to-Market program. The non-profit group held its first board meeting in April to discuss shared values within the agricultural supply chain, metric and tool development and communications. According to Keystone’s Field-to-Market web page, agricultural challenges for the 21st century include: the increased use of resources for profitable agricultural production, continued increases in overall productivity, maintenance and improvement of access to nutritious and safe food, and maintenance and improvement of environmental health. Gary Edwards, Production and Stewardship Action Team Member from Iowa, said, “Our food industry is looking for opportunities throughout the supply chain to use metrics (definition: A metric is a measure for quantitatively assessing, controlling or selecting a person, process, event, or institution, along with the procedures to carry out measurements and the procedures for the interpretation of the assessment in the light of previous or comparable assessments) to promote continuous improvement in commodity agriculture. We are taking what we’ve learned from Field-to-Market’s early pilots to refine program guidelines, and at the same time expanding the metrics in the Fieldprint Calculator.” The Fieldprint Calculator’s new water quality metrics are in the final stages of third-party testing. It uses the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Water Quality Index in determining a qualitative relationship between management practices and potential edge-of-field discharge that could impact on water quality in the area. The Alliance’s next metric will be a field’s biodiversity potential for support of habitat. South Dakota corn farmer and NCGA board member Keith Alverson said, “The intent will be for the calculator to provide insight into how increased productivity on current farmland can reduce the need for land conversion elsewhere and allow us to maintain a diverse ecosystem.” The mission of the Keystone Alliance is to meet those 21st century ag challenges by providing collaborative leadership that is transparent, grounded in science, focused on outcomes, open to a full range of technology choices, and committed to creating opportunities across the agricultural supply chain for continuous improvements in productivity, environmental quality, and human well-being. It’s a mouthful, but such collaboration, communication and drive for diversity will ensure a clean, bright future for production agriculture, as it strives to provide more, with lower inputs, and on a shrinking land base. I’ll see ya!
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