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Stories from the Field: Show Me the Numbers – The Importance of Data

Due to Congressional inaction, the 2008 Farm Bill has expired without a new bill or extension to take its place. In the absence of a farm bill, numerous innovative programs that invest in sustainable agriculture systems are shut down and left without funding. This post is the final post in our 10-week blog series that has featured both program facts and stories from the field of those farmers and communities impacted by expired farm bill programs.

By Chris Schreiner, Executive Director, Oregon Tilth

About a decade ago, I was in Portland to see Wes Jackson from The Land Institute speak as part of a Community Food Matters event.  Jackson, a pioneering voice and advocate for sustainable agriculture, told the audience, “What the sustainable agriculture movement really needs most is a new generation of accountants.”  Many in the audience, including myself, were puzzled by this declaration.

Accountants?  Why not another generation of farmers, soil scientists, or direct-market entrepreneurs?  Jackson went on to explain that decision-makers at federal agencies, land-grant universities, and local government place a high value on good data.  In other words, making a strong case in support of sustainable agriculture requires solid numbers.

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