Conservation Districts and the Sustainability Puzzle

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Editor’s note: This blog is the second part in a series. Click here to read the first installment.

By Laura Demmel

Agricultural sustainability could be defined as “natural resource stewardship practices that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.1” Conservation districts work toward this goal of greater sustainability within the food supply chain by promoting locally-led, voluntary conservation and assisting landowners in effective conservation planning.

The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) engages in the sustainability conversation by working with Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture2, whose primary goal is to unite the supply chain to deliver sustainable outcomes for agricultural commodities. Field to Market brings a diverse group of grower organizations, conservation groups, agribusinesses, universities and public-sector partners to define, measure and advance the sustainability of food, fiber and fuel production in the United States. NACD is a civil society member of Field to Market, serving on the Board of Directors and two standing committees.

Conservation districts offer the Field to Market Alliance an opportunity to catalyze better natural resource management on the farm. In order for sustainability initiatives to be successful, on-the-ground needs for local, voluntary conservation efforts must be met. Conservation districts offer the technical assistance that growers need to plan and implement better conservation practices. In addition, companies can look to conservation districts to offer the services and knowledge lacking within their organizations to overcome the biggest natural resource challenges that growers face.

Currently, Field to Market carries out its work through a number of “Fieldprint Projects,” which usually operate over a certain geographical region or watershed. Districts have played a role in a handful of projects by administering the project, assisting farmers with entering data into the Fieldprint Calculator and/or creating conservation plans for growers to implement.

Fieldprint Projects through Field to Market and the Resource Stewardship Evaluation Tool (RSET) through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are two examples of agricultural sustainability efforts where conservation districts are already making an impact. Conservation districts offer the practical link that landowners need to take their goals of environmental stewardship and accomplish them through voluntary conservation planning and implementation. It’s a win-win for farmers and ranchers as well as the companies working with them.

Laura Demmel is NACD’s Northern Plains Region representative and can be reached at laura-demmel@nacdnet.org.

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Tags: calculator, Evaluation, field to market, fieldprint, projects, Resource, RSE, RSET, Stewardship, sustainability, sustainable, Tool

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