JOLIET, Ill. — In 2009, a dialog was launched to bring
together farmers, ranchers and foresters to develop solutions for challenges
facing these industries.
Solutions from the Land was founded by the United Nations
Foundation, Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy and Farm
“We brought together people from all walks of life
representing agriculture, forestry and ranching to look at where we are in
agriculture in the U.S., where we want to be in the future and some of the
challenges we are facing,” explained Tim Fink, project associate for Solutions
from the Land during a presentation at the Farmland Investment Fair sponsored by
the Chicago Farmers.
“We are going to release a paper that is the culmination of
two years of work, and it will include a series of recommendations,” he
Fink discussed several challenges facing those who own or
“By 2050, the population is expected to grow to 9.6 billion
people, and we’re at 7 billion people right now,” he said. “And you add to that
what is going on in China and India with the rising standards of living, we’re
going to need to double our food production by 2050.”
Increasing severe weather events are challenging producers.
“In 2011, there were record crop insurance payouts, and 2012
is supposed to double that record,” the project associate said.
“Something is clearly happening with climate change, and
that is having an impact on agriculture in the U.S.,” he noted.
“Looking at all these factors, we don’t want to be the group
that says the sky is falling,” he added. “We want to articulate a positive
Farmers have experienced all sorts of challenges over the
“We believe agriculture can rise to these challenges and not
only meet them, but exceed them,” the specialist stressed. “So we have a new,
shared vision urgently needed for higher efficiency, productivity and
The vision of Solutions for the Land by 2050 is
“agricultural systems and forests can be simultaneously managed to satisfy all
the demand for food, feed, fiber and fuel; support economic growth and
sustainable development; reduce hunger and malnutrition; improve soil, water and
air quality; enhance biodiversity; and ensure ecosystem health including habitat
and deliver mitigation solutions to mounting global warming challenges,” Fink
The target audience for this project is U.S. agriculture,
forestry and conservation leaders.
“This will include people who are trusted sources for
producers,” the specialist said. “We are collaborating with partners who embrace
this vision, and after that we want to go out and find other information
multipliers, including ag media, policymakers and even taking this conversation
international to work with global partners.”
Solutions from the Land aims to work with people, Fink
“We don’t want to tell them how to run their operations,” he
said. “In the short term, we will be promoting integration and implementation of
the best solutions we have.”
One of the challenges facing the U.S. is the federal budget.
“Traditionally, the farm bill has been the best means of
achieving conservation goals, but we’re facing a limited budget,” Fink noted.
“There are things government can do that will be incredibly
helpful such as expanding research, making sure we’re looking ahead and giving
farmers the tools they need,” he said. “We’re also looking at what we can do in
private partnerships, things like water quality training and setting up
Declining investments in research and innovation is another
“We need to make sure we’re going to continue to be the
world leader in agriculture, and we have a new generation of people doing
research to make that possible,” Fink stressed. “We also need to make sure the
research is integrated and relative to farmers and they have a hand in
participating in the research to choose some of the priorities.”
Some consumers are demanding ecosystem services and new
sustainability standards that farmers are forced to adapt to achieve market
“Our concern is that these sustainability standards reflect
what’s practical for the farmers,” the specialist said.
Policy development needs to occur with a holistically
approach, Fink added.
“Sometimes you are trying to achieve water quality, but what
you’re implementing is not effective for air quality goals,” he said. “So we
want to create flexibility and identify places where policies may be in
contradiction to one another and harmonize them so they work better
Farm productivity has continued to grow over the past
“Since 1950, farm productivity has been consistently going
up and inputs are staying about the same if not decreasing,” Fink reported.
“That’s the very direction we want to see things going. If farmers are able to
use resources more efficiently, that’s less environmental impact and more money
in their pockets.”
For more information about Solutions from the Land, visit