Demand for food, feed, fiber and energy globally is on the rise. At the same time, the need for critical ecosystem services like flood control, water filtration, biodiversity and carbon sequestration is higher than ever. Landowners and land managers must find ways to address all of these needs. 

Solutions from the Land (SFL), a collaborative dialogue of diverse stakeholders, released its first report: "Developing a New Vision for United States Agriculture, Forestry, and Conservation." 

"This report provides a framework identifying five broad challenges around which future policies, practices and land management approaches might be constructed. It was developed to help jumpstart a solutions-oriented, forward-looking conversation about America's agricultural and forestry future," said A.G. Kawamura, owner/partner of Orange County Produce, LLC and co-chair of Solutions From the Land.

"A New Vision" identifies challenges to land management that include: 

  • Loss of working lands: Between 1982 and 2007, the United Stateslost 39 million acres of cropland, pasture and rangeland, and forest land to development. This stresses ecosystems and puts limits on future production.  
  • Conflicting policies and inadequate rewards for ecosystem services: For example, constructed wetlands effectively absorb nutrient runoff. While existing policies encourage farmers to create wetlands, many farmers are afraid to do so out of fear that their construction will trigger new restrictions on how they can manage their operations.  
  • Declining investments in research and innovation: This slows the development of essential, innovative land management practices and technologies.
  • The changing climate: There are many unanswered questions about projected climate change and its impact. But we know for certain that such change will present a less predictable, less stable environment for farmers, foresters, and ranchers, in which "business as usual" may not be enough to meet the needs for food, feed, fuel, and fiber of a rapidly growing world. 
  • Multiple risks: New and more volatile global markets, unpredictable weather and policy uncertainty combine to increase risk, especially for small producers.

The report also identifies ways to address these challenges:

  • Implement landscape-scale solutions through coalitions of many stakeholders.
  • Harmonize policy frameworks by reconciling conflicting policies and removing redundant paperwork.
  • Develop a clear system to measure the value of ecosystem services, and reward that stewardship accordingly.
  • Energize and coordinate land management research.
  • Transform and modernize networks to share information on sustainable practices.

Each of these five areas requires further development through a national conversation among stakeholders to produce workable solutions that can realistically be delivered from the land. SFL is working to encourage groups and individuals to get involved.Follow how the conversation begins at today's event via Facebook or Twitter (#sfldialogue).

"The contemporary challenges facing today's farmers, ranchers, forest landowners and federal land managers are as daunting as ever. Now more than ever, a fresh, collaborative approach is warranted," notes Harris Sherman, USDA Under Secretary of Natural Resources and the Environment. "The forum and agenda outlined by the Solutions from the Land dialogue brings together our brightest minds to address what may be our greatest needs: maintaining adaptive, resilient ecosystems; boosting productivity while reducing unnecessary waste and consumption; and building incentives and policies for enhanced stewardship across land ownerships."

"I am excited to see the Solutions from the Land project moving forward," said Don Villwock, a corn, wheat and soybean farmer and president of the Indiana Farm Bureau. "All of us involved in agriculture see the need to feed 9 billion people by 2050, and we also see the clock ticking away. While that challenge is overwhelming in itself, we will need to accomplish that goal with fewer resources than we do today. We will need this combined effort of all stakeholders to find workable solutions that will more than double food production while protecting or even improving our natural resources." 

To read the full report, visit the SFL website at www.sfldialogue.net. The website also has more information on opportunities to get involved in the SFL conversation on land management issues. To review the webcast of today's Farm Foundation Forum at which the report was released, click here. 

SFL's founding partners include Farm Foundation, NFP, The Nature Conservancy, the United Nations Foundation and Conservation International.

Solutions from the Land (SFL) is a national dialogue led by agriculture, forestry and conservation thought leaders. Started in 2009, SFL is working to help landowners and those who manage the land-farmers, ranchers and foresters-to make the most of the land's potential.