Agroecological farming systems offer a science-based alternative to the industrial model that currently dominates U.S. agriculture. By adopting agroecological approaches, we can transform the way we produce our food in a more sustainable direction, with benefits for the health of farmland, farm workers, the environment and the climate.
But a 2015 analysis by UCS and partners shows that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is missing the boat when it comes to investing in agroecological research and education. The study found that only 15 percent of external USDA grants go to projects that include agroecology, and only 4 percent to projects that could be considered transformative.
Industrial agriculture: a dead end
Agriculture in the United States is succeeding at production—but failing at sustainability. Our farms and ranches produce vast quantities of food, fiber and fuel, but this abundance comes at the expense of the environment, public health, and even long-term agricultural productivity.
Our entrenched industrial agriculture system has spawned a host of problems. Practices like monoculture (planting the same crops in the same fields year after year) and frequent tillage degrade soil health. Excess fertilizer runoff produces toxic algal blooms and aquatic dead zones. Herbicide overuse has led to an epidemic of “superweeds,” and intensive pesticide use has raised concerns about environmental and human health impacts.