Farming to Reverse Biodiversity Loss
Farmers are critical managers of our nation's wildlife and landscapes.
Farms comprise almost 60% of the continental U.S, and 40% of the Earth's landscape. This large footprint can be the solution to our biodiversity crisis. Agriculture's footprint can support native plants and wildlife, and at the same time, farms can take advantage of nature's ecosystem services that are vital to farm health.
When biodiversity is supported on the farm, it can provide pollination, pest and weed control, water retention, soil tilth, nutrient cycling, erosion control, carbon storage, and many other ecosystem services, helping farmers build resiliency and protecting the integrity of our agricultural lands for generations to come. These same natural functions give native plants room to exist and help to support wildlife with adequate food, clean water and safe cover, including those rare species declining in part because of agriculture. Natural functions also provide a buffer against natural disasters and climate change that jointly affect human and wild communities.
We are working with and learning from farmers across the country that are effectively protecting biodiversity and managing wild farms.
Farmers are installing native plants that support nature's food web, from pollinators to beneficial predators. They are creating and restoring wildlife corridors so wide ranging mammals can co-exist on the land. And they are storing carbon in their soils and in woody vegetation which builds biodiversity below and above ground.
Everyone---from farmers, to processors, to consumers---has a role in ensuring safe food from the field to the table.
While some current, misguided food-safety practices required by auditors and buyers have encouraged the destruction of wildlife habitat and conservation plantings on farms, FDA’s Produce Rule requires nothing of the kind. In fact, FDA "encourages the application of practices that can enhance food safety and that are also consistent with sustainable conservation."
In early 2016 we published Co-Managing Farm Stewardship with Food Safety GAPS and Conservation Practices for growers and conservationists to learn about the many opportunities for making the farm safer with conservation practices, and also some of the challenges that should be managed.
Appropriately designed grass filter strips can help prevent pathogens in run-off water from entering a produce field. Hedgerows, such as the one here, can help reduce the movement of pathogen-laden dust from blowing onto the crops in the neighboring field. Promoting healthy soil through use of compost and cover crops can help maintain a diverse community of soil microorganisms that leave little room for human pathogens to establish themselves and flourish.