Advancing agroecology in the US: Science and policy, from soil to spoon

Authors: Marcia DeLonge*, Union of Concerned Scientists, Albie Miles, University of Hawai'i, West O'ahu, Liz Carlisle, Stanford University, Rafter Ferguson, Union of Concerned Scientists
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: agroecology, United States policy, food systems, public research, farm policy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Washington 4, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In the US, the dominant food and farm system produces high yields of commodity crops, but has been linked to numerous challenges. For example, food insecurity rates remain high (12% in 2017), farm profits have been in decline over the past 6 years, and conventional farming practices are a major driver behind challenges such as soil degradation, poor water quality, and climate change. While agroecology offers solutions to many of these challenges, an ecological approach to agriculture is relatively rare in both research and practice in the US. In this paper, we draw on recent analyses to explore barriers and opportunities surrounding the US transition to agroecology. First, we review recent research on public research funding to demonstrate how a lack of investment in agroecology research, extension, and education has created barriers limiting both innovation and adoption of agroecological practices. Next, based on a scientist survey and farmer poll, we provide evidence of growing support for agroecology; a demand for increased investment in agroecology; and interest in policies that help farmers adopt more sustainable practices. Finally, building on these findings and a recent assessment of food systems across all 50 states, we explore policy solutions that could trigger a broader transformation to agroecology, particularly considering the 2018 US farm bill process. Overall, we find encouraging enthusiasm for agroecology and a core set of practices, programs, and polices that may be leveraged to enable change. However, accelerating the transition to agroecology will require substantially greater investment and attention.

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