More than half of the U.S. population lives in a major city. And let’s face it, most people never get to see the “microbial jungle” in our farm soil. Many will never drink water from an aquifer in the forest. And few witness the symphony of native bees pollinating apple orchards in springtime.
Soil. Water. Biodiversity. Without critical natural resources, a sustainable food future is in question. And while debate continues on how to feed a growing population, we believe all solutions need to protect and care for the natural resources we depend on.
It’s not complicated. The loss of natural resources and degradation of landscapes threatens our ability to grow food, drink clean water and sustain our communities economies. Unfortunately, the negative environmental impact of agriculture on nature is significant. Farming is a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Agricultural runoff mixed with fertilizers and pesticides flows into lakes and rivers, making it unsafe for wildlife and for people. Recent estimates project we have as little as 60 years of farmable soil left and each day we lose more grasslands, forests and savannas with monoculture farm expansion.
At Oregon Tilth, we know organic has a proven ability to provide quality foods for people and protect our environment. Yet in the United States less than one percent of all farmland is certified organic. Public investment in conservation-focused agriculture remains low and overall, organic farming continues to be marginalized in some media as unscientific and unrealistic.
As certifiers of the USDA National Organic Program and partners with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, we’ve seen big steps forward in commitments to organic research, education and models. While this is great news, our natural resources and landscapes are still at great risk of being damaged beyond repair. It is harder than ever before for farmers to produce food, take care of our environment and still make a livable wage.
Every day, Oregon Tilth works with farmers producing certified organic crops and products. We believe the best opportunities for progress on day-to-day conservation starts here, because no one knows the health of our landscapes better than the growers working closely with soil, monitoring plant health and observing pastures daily.
Our job is to connect growers with the expertise and critical resources that can turn conservation ideas into impactful practices. Furthermore, we believe that organic farmers are lead protectors of our natural resources. They deserve more than lipservice and a modest paycheck for a job well done. The 2014 Farm Bill only includes five percent of a 956 billion dollar budget for conservation work over the next decade. With the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reporting that the “likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems” is here, Oregon Tilth sees a real opportunity to put organic agriculture at the forefront of investment, innovation and economic growth to protect our natural resources future.
Learn more about Oregon Tilth’s solutions to support conservation-minded farming that values people and planet, together.