Bush signals historic shift to support green farming

A major shift in US agricultural policy towards support of environmentally sensitive farming methods appears to have the backing of the Bush administration.

The need to broaden the range of instruments used to deliver conservation aims is one of the key principles identified in the administration’s recently published policy document on agriculture and food. The report, Food and agricultural policy: taking stock for the new century, states that stewardship incentives should be one of a portfolio of instruments to be used to deliver conservation objectives – not just paying farmers to leave sensitive land unfarmed. It also specifically refers to the “retirement of environmentally sensitive land to respond to Americans’ growing expectations about agriculture’s role in promoting and protecting environmental quality”.

Despite the administration’s apparent disdain towards global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the new agricultural policy framework makes room to include the potential for development of renewable energy sources and carbon sequestration. These are activities grouped within the area of rural development and suggested as alternative uses of the natural resource base.

Similarly significant for food production is the recognition of growing public concern over food quality and the need to provide “proper variety and quantities of foods and nutrients that promote health and well-being”, which appears to mirror public concern across the Atlantic.

The potential scale of any federal support for green farming is likely to remain an unknown in the light of the terrorist attacks. The farming industry was poised to react to a new farm bill, which until last week, was a high priority at Congress. Projected farm spending like other expenditure in the US could well be cut to offset the disaster relief and military response.

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