I’m reading through the USDA Strategic Agroforestry Framework in detail for the first time since its release in June of this year, and it’s actually sort of an incredible document. A lot of it is the usual glacial policy-ese that may never get implemented. But then there’s things like this (p. 8):
The utilization of agroforestry practices to produce food, feed, and fiber had a history of significant achievements around the globe long before agroforestry was recognized as an option for U.S. agricultural producers, forest landowners, and communities. Agroforestry practices can play a key role in creating sustainable agriculture systems and food- secure nations in the face of global issues such as climate change and a growing population. The United States has much to learn from the international agroforestry community and much to contribute.
Right frickin’ on! And then this shocker (p. 31):
Noticeably absent in the 1997 report is any reference to climate change or the use of the term “ecosystem services.”
Am I dreaming?! A USDA publication is referring to climate change and ecosystem services as baseline givens and “noticeably absent” from an earlier publication!!
Seriously, though, I’m so used to “get big or get out” USDA being actively harmful to people and the planet (i.e., the ethanol debacle) and still more or less in the 1980’s in their thinking about agriculture and land use. And who knows how much teeth or longevity this thing will have in terms of financial resources and policymaking*. But credit where credit’s due, and thank you again Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan! I hope this document and USDA’s resources can help with the rapid development of multi-functional agroforestry systems around the country. We just might need it.
*That said, there are hints of positive movement for diverse regional food systems in the run-up to the 2012 Farm Bill. More on this later.