Although the primary role of agriculture is to produce food and fiber, many other functions are important, such as land conservation, maintenance of landscape structure, sustainable management of natural resources, biodiversity preservation, and contribution to the socio-economic viability of rural areas (OECD 2001). The multiple functions of agriculture have risen to prominence in global trade negotiations (Romstad et al. 2000,Vatn 2002). Japan, South Korea, and several European countries (including Norway and Switzerland) have argued that small to moderate-sized, independent farms can affect the economic, environmental, and social health of rural areas and preserve cultural heritage (DeVries 2000, Romstad et al. 2000). In these countries that value the nonmarket benefits of agriculture, government is encouraged to promote multiple functions of agriculture through “green box payments,” so called because they do not distort trade and are not price supports (Romstad et al. 2000). Farmers, policymakers, environmentalists, and the public increasingly recognize that US farm policies, despite the inclusion of conservation programs, can have harmful effects on both farmers and the environment. It is also increasingly clear that farmers can produce nonmarket  “goods,” such as environmental and social benefits, as well as food and fiber (Cochrane 2003). How can US farmers be encouraged to produce more of these multiple goods?

Continue reading Multifunctional Agriculture in the United States, as published by BioScience in January 2005.

 

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Multifunctional Agriculture in the United States