The OEC: Sustainable Agriculture & Clean Water in Ohio
& Clean Water
What is sustainable ag?
Does it really have a
connection to water quality?
Director of Agricultural Programs
Clean Water Conference
October 3, 2009
Lawyers Got it Right!
Legal Definition of Sustainable Agriculture
The term ''sustainable agriculture (U.S. Code Title 7,
Section 3103) means an integrated system of plant and
animal production practices having a site-specific
application that will over the long-term:
• Satisfy human food and fiber needs.
• Enhance environmental quality and the natural
resource base upon which the agriculture economy
• Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources
and on-farm resources and integrate, where
on farm integrate
appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls.
• Sustain the economic viability of farm operations.
• Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a
Sustainable farming in practice:
This is a 'No-Dig' 35 feet x 10 feet pumpkin patch. Barely 2 months, we now have 42
g p p p y , 4
pumpkins (the red tips mark the pumpkins) with more to come judging by the flowers.
Sustainable pumpkin & squash patch
No mechanical tillage, no chemical fertilizer, no pesticides
• Bio-diversity – wide crop rotations or even
• Integration of cropping and livestock systems.
• Minimize consumption of fossil-based energy
and other purchased inputs / maximize local
• Managed according to long-term, multi-
generational planning – triple bottom line.
Target efficient, sustainable production levels.
• Mono-cropping practices / shallow rotation,
including only 2 or 3 different crops.
• Specialization on either field crops or livestock
(although some industrial operations also grow
g p g
• Heavy reliance on outside inputs, including
y p g
petroleum fuels, pesticides, feed, and subsidies.
• Focus on maximum production / profit
generation. National / global marketing strategy.
Why Matters t th E i
Wh it M tt to the Environment
• Maximum production demands maximum
• Maximizing inputs (feed per cow, fertilizer
per acre, manure per acre) increases
potential for loss of those inputs to the
• Mitigation strategies seldom return short
Short-Term Profit Motives Drive
• Common to all industries from oil companies to
electric power generators to feedlot operators.
p g a p a
• Corporate “Duty of Care” prevents corporate
directors / management from investing in nonnon-
essential initiatives to protect the environment.
• Thus: Newsweek analysis of sustainability of
‘Fortune 500’ companies: Bottom 10 – eight
energy companies, two agribusiness giants.
gy p , g g
Tale of Two Trends:
As Industrial agriculture consolidates and
i into f
• Larger production units demand simplified
(industrial type) management systems.
• Requires cheap energy and stable purchased
input costs and subsidies.
• Trends do not favor continuation.
Input costs – rise subsidies find
resistance as 71% g to
wealthiest 10% of farms
“The Trade Off ”
A key dynamic that must be accounted for:
IDEAL vs. REAL
Time for a Resurgence?
• Demand for locally‐produced, high‐quality
products is growing, outpacing supply.
d t i i t i l
• Consolidation trend in agriculture reaching
point of diminishing returns (anti‐trust
i f di i i hi ( i
initiative by Attorney General and Ag
• Governor’s Food Policy Council adopts
initiative to rebuild local processing.
i iti ti t b ild l l i
We are at a time in history when
we face the most profound
social and economic restructuring
in many generations
• State and Federal Governments should adopt
policies that re‐invigorate sustainable agricultural
• Conserve valuable energy and natural resources by
encouraging the development of moderate scale,
sustainable integrated agricultural systems,
employing millions of families and making our
l i illi f f ili d ki
economy and food system more resilient.
Multifunctionality of Agriculture
• Re-orientation of our ag / food production
system could make our communities and
our nation stronger
• Could also provide essential “Ecosystem
• Expand economic opportunity to millions
globally, thus relieving social discord.
• Become an OEC member
Help achieve changes in law and policy, properly
re-connecting “externalized costs” of industrial
production with those practices.
• Vote with your dollars
Patronize local / organic producers.
• Take action
Voice your opinion to lawmakers,
media, and community leaders!
Visit www.theOEC.org Ohio Environmental Council
1207 Grandview Avenue, Suite 201
Columbus, OH 43212