ag final sustainability - Jason Weihbrecht Page 1...

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Jason Weihbrecht Page 1 5/13/2009 Sustainability is defined as the ability for something to support itself. There is no clear definition of what exactly sustainable agriculture is but there are key points that everyone agrees on. My current understanding of sustainable agriculture from what I have learned in this class is any agricultural system that promotes environmental safety, social equity, and economic profitability. My views have changed somewhat over the course of this semester on what exactly makes an agricultural system sustainable. When I was first introduced to the term sustainable agriculture I thought that it mostly entailed using environmentally sound practices. I now realize that in order for an agricultural system to be sustainable it needs to be able to support itself in all areas. First, a farm cannot be considered sustainable if it is having a negative impact on the environment. Some of the things that can be detrimental to the environment include water contamination, pesticide poisoning, soil erosion, crop pests, and even the depletion of fossil fuel resources. Water contamination can occur if a farmer uses too much fertilizer before a period of heavy rainfall or if animal waste is not properly disposed of. The farm bill addresses this issue by setting specific guidelines for the application of fertilizer and ensuring that any Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations has an environmentally sound way to dispose of animal waste so that it does not runoff into the ground water. Pesticide poisoning happens when chemicals that are designed to control a certain pest unintentionally affect a non-target organism, which can include both humans and wildlife. This most often occurs when directions on the label are not followed. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act is a federal law in the United States that sets the system of pesticide regulation in order to protect the farmers, consumers, and
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Jason Weihbrecht Page 2 5/13/2009 environment. The law states that all pesticides must be registered, which includes collecting data to determine its effective use, dosage, hazards, etc. Once this is done a label is created that instructs the user on proper usage of the chemical. It is against the law to use a pesticide in any way other than what is described on the label (EPA). Soil erosion is a big problem for both farmers and the environment. Soil is the most valuable resource for farmers because it is the very thing that is needed for crops to grow. Soil contains vital nutrients such as nitrogen that is lost when soil erodes. Without the proper nutrients crops cannot grow, which is unsustainable. This nutrient runoff can also lead to water contamination. To prevent soil erosion a no-till system can be utilized so that organic matter that holds the soil in place, such as roots and fungi, is not disturbed. The no-till method is also considered a sustainable practice due to the fact that it cuts down on the amount of fossil fuels needed, which at this point in time is a big environmental concern.
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