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Opportunities for Agroforestry in the 1995 Farm Bill

Policy Statements and Issue Papers Offered by the
Association for Temperate Agroforestry  (AFTA)


Executive Summary Agroforestry  Concept  Rural Economic Development 
Field & Landscape  Buffers Land Retirement Programs Integrated Production Systems
Rural-Urban Interface Policy Actions  

  

Introduction by Mike Gold, AFTA President

Sustainable development in agricultural ecosystems has emerged as o­ne of the most complex and critical issues facing the nation today. How do we deal with the many negative environmental impacts of agriculture, maintain productivity, and provide for people's needs? There are many stakeholders involved, and we need to do it cost effectively to meet the needs of as many stakeholders as possible.

AGROFORESTRY - the blending of agriculture and forestry production and conservation practices - helps to provide answers. As an alternative to conventional agriculture, agroforestry is unique because it simultaneously addresses critical economic, environmental, and social needs within agroecosystems.

The Association for Temperate Agroforestry (AFTA) has teamed up with several other organizations and interest groups to develop the attached policy paper and individual issue papers o­n agroforestry in relation to the sustainable development needs in agricultural ecosystems.

In reading policy papers from other organizations, we recognize that there is much common ground. For example, we are all looking for long-term and multiple benefits from public investments in incentive programs. We look forward to working in collaboration with you and your organization to attain those goals through the application of appropriate technologies.

AnchorAgroforestry Policy Statement -- Executive Summary

AGROFORESTRY: BLENDING AGRICULTURE AND FORESTRY PRODUCTION
AND CONSERVATION PRACTICES

Agroforestry Defined:
Agroforestry is the intentional blending of agriculture and forestry production and conservation practices. Such integrated systems bridge production agriculture and natural resource conservation with environmental protection and human needs.

Agroforestry practices include riparian buffer systems, streambank bioengineering, tree/pasture systems, tree/specialty crop systems, windbreaks and shelterbelts, wildlife habitat, living terraces, alley cropping, and forest farming.

Benefits of Agroforestry:
Benefits are increased crop production, alternative crops and diversified local economies, improved water quality, soil erosion and sediment control, filtering and biodegrading excess nutrients and pesticides, reduced flood damage, microclimate moderation, and diversified habitats for wildlife and humans. Key outcomes include:

  • Viable alternatives to more o­nerous and costly regulatory approaches to address societal environmental concerns such as soil erosion, water quality, and biodiversity.
  • Diverse, resilient, and sustainable farm enterprises and rural communities.

National Needs Addressed Through Agroforestry:

1) Rural Economic Development.
Agroforestry practices should be used to develop new economic enterprises to supplement and diversify farm incomes and enhance local economies.

2) Field and Landscape Buffer Zones.
Agroforestry buffer zones should be used to maintain water quality, limit flood damage, enhance biodiversity, provide wildlife corridors, and enhance aesthetic values at field, watershed, and landscape scales. A concerted effort is needed to restore or replace aging and declining windbreaks.

3) Land Retirement Programs.
More emphasis should be placed o­n agroforestry practices to attain multiple and long term benefits in Conservation Compliance, Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, and the Clean Water Act.

4) Integrated Production Systems
More emphasis should be placed o­n integrated tree/crop/livestock farming systems to optimize economic production and environmental protection.

5) Resolving:Rural/Urban Interface Conflicts
Agroforestry technologies should be used to address rural/urban land use conflicts and the problems stemming from both urbanization and farming practices. Problems addressed include: stormwater runoff; lack of greenspace; streambank erosion and sedimentation; municipal wastewater and sludge disposal; confined livestock waste; and control of wind, noise, odors, dust and snow.

Policy Actions Needed:

1) USDA Leadership and Coordination.
The Secretary of Agriculture should provide national leadership to catalyze cooperation, synergy, and partnerships among federal, state, and private interests to advance the science and practice of agroforestry.

2) Research and Development.
To achieve the potential of the emerging science and practice of agroforestry, emphasis must be placed o­n interdisciplinary technology development and applications through a needs-driven program of basic and applied research.

3) Technology Transfer and Application.
A focused technology transfer effort is required to develop understanding, acceptance, and broader use of agroforestry technologies. Application of appropriate technologies needs to be supported by analyses of alternative land-uses in relation to markets and landowner acceptance.

4) Technical Assistance and Landowner Incentives.
More emphasis is needed o­n interdisciplinary watershed-level diagnosis, planning, and program delivery to achieve natural resource conservation. Technical assistance and incentives should be targeted to attain cost-effective watershed-scale goals. Technical assistance providers need to be trained in new and integrated conservation technologies.

Agroforestry Issue Paper: The Agroforestry Concept

Agroforestry is the intentional blending of agriculture and forestry production and conservation practices, to attain more diversified and sustainable systems. Agroforestry practices contribute substantially to generating the ecosystem diversity, ecological processes, resilience, and buffer zones important for long-term sustainability. It is more than simply a collection of tree planting practices. Agroforestry bridges production agriculture and natural resource conservation with environmental enhancement and human needs. .

Practices include riparian buffers, streambank bioengineering, alley cropping, living terraces, windbreaks, tree/pasture systems, tree/specialty crop systems, and forest/specialty crop systems (forest farming).

Benefits are increased crop production, alternative crops and diversified rural economies, improved water quality, soil erosion and sediment control, filtering and biodegrading excess nutrients and pesticides, reduced flood damage, microclimate moderation, and diversified habitats for wildlife and humans.

Outcomes include diverse, resilient, and sustainable farm enterprises and rural communities; and viable alternatives to more o­nerous and costly regulatory approaches to address societal environmental concerns such as soil erosion, water quality, and biodiversity.

Key Principles in Agroforestry:

  • Intensive Land-Use. Agroforestry systems are created and/or managed by design rather than by chance.
  • Integrated Systems. Trees and/or shrubs are deliberately combined with crops and/or livestock. Such systems increase the overall productive capacity of the land.
  • Biological Interactions. Agroforestry enhances ecological interactions among system components, biophysical complexity, biodiversity, and system resilience.
  • Optimization of Benefits. System design and management are tailored to meet the multiple
    objectives of the landowner, to optimize both economic production and environmental benefits.

Agroforestry systems provide lasting economic, environmental, and social benefits. At farm, watershed, and landscape scales, integration of agroforestry practices can transform our agricultural lands into stable, resilient, diverse, aesthetic, and sustainable land-use systems.

Agroforestry Issue Paper: Rural Economic Development

Agroforestry practices .integrated into existing agricultural land-use systems provide multiple crops and services to supplement and diversify farm income.

Examples of products from managed tree/crop systems include lumber and veneer logs, fuelwood, nursery stock, Christmas trees, nuts, fruits, and foliage. Specialty crops grown with the microclimate protection of trees include herbs, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Forest farming specialty crops include ginseng, mushrooms, and foliage.

Agroforestry adds economic diversity to an agricultural system. It provides a landowner with the opportunity to develop a portfolio of short- and long-term investments to spread economic risk through diversification. For portions of farms that are unsuitable for annual crop production, woodlots and strip plantings provide an alternative productive land use. For example, wooded riparian corridors and "timberbelts" can produce sawlogs, wildlife, and recreational opportunities, while ensuring resource conservation.

Recent sharp increases in prices paid for trees from private lands has heightened interest in forest stewardship. But many landowners are unsure how to capitalize o­n the potential for generating income from trees. Agroforestry provides a way to plan for the future while meeting the needs of the present. By integrating agroforestry practices into the farming system, trees meet multiple economic, conservation, and social needs. The design and level of management must be tailored to meet each landowner's objectives.

Policy Actions Needed:

1) Establish sustainable economic uses of CRP lands, e.g., hay and grazing enterprises, high-value tree crops, tree products (nuts, foliage, etc), Christmas trees, woodlands, biomass, and tourism/recreation enterprises. Conversion should require a management plan and managed harvesting. Allow a 10-year contract extension if existing cover o­n CRP lands is converted to alternative managed economic use. Provide additional cost-share for tree planting o­n existing high priority CRP lands, in combination with contract extensions or easements.

2) Focus Small Business Administration grants to develop landowner enterprises and local/regional markets based o­n agroforestry systems that provide alternative sources of farm income. SBA support should be linked to technical assistance and cost-share programs delivered by other agencies.

Agroforestry Issue Paper: Field and Landscape Buffer Zones

The 1993 NRC report entitled: "Soil and Water Quality: An Agenda for Agriculture" recommends greater use of buffer zones. Agroforestry systems are the most appropriate means to attain the desired buffer zones.

Buffer zones should be part of the infrastructure of agricultural production systems. Their functions are to: (1) provide protection from environmental extremes; (2) reduce storm water runoff, (3) trap, filter, break down, and consume sediments and excess nutrients, fertilizers, pesticides, and animal wastes in runoff water; (4) enhance landscape- and bio-diversity, and (5) provide numerous environmental and social benefits.

Examples include windbreaks, shelterbelts, riparian buffer systems, living snowfences, contour hedgerows, and wildlife habitat plantings.

A Win-Win Situation 
Agriculture-derived contaminants are the Nation's number o­ne source of water quality impairment. Producers talk of being proactive in order to avoid regulation, but they need to act. The public needs to share the responsibility and cost. Establishing buffer zones are a way to work together to create a safety net, used in combination with judicious application of farm chemicals and fertilizers, to minimize the impacts of agricultural nonpoint source pollution.

Riparian Buffer Strips are Urgently Needed 
There are 737,000 miles of streambank nationally without woody riparian vegetation. These aquatic environments are unprotected from adjacent land uses. Alternatively, riparian buffer strips are capable of removing 80% of the sediment and chemical contaminants in surface and shallow groundwater. Buffer strips also hold water during peak flows, reduce bank cutting, and enhance aquatic environments.

Windbreak Establishment and Renovation are Needed 
The existing 175,000 miles of windbreaks are at a steady-state level, but 75% need renovation to maintain their health and function. A concerted effort is needed to restore or replace aging and declining windbreaks and establish new o­nes. The beneficial effects of windbreaks o­n soil retention and crop yields are well documented in over 80 studies.

Management is Needed 
Trees are an effective sequestering system to remove excess nutrients and carbon dioxide and store them o­n-site in the form of wood. Partial tree harvesting in buffer zones is necessary to clean the "biofilter", remove valuable products, and maintain their long-term effectiveness.

Agroforestry Issue Paper: Land Retirement Programs

More emphasis should be placed o­n multiple and long-term benefits in the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, and other land retirement and conservation programs. In CRP, most of the enrolled lands are planted to grass cover that can easily be plowed, whereas in the Soil Bank Program 80% of the trees planted are still at work today. Trees have staying power and provide multiple benefits.

Policy Actions Needed in CRP:

1) Seek contracts that optimize a mix of conservation benefits, e.g., soil erosion, water quality, and wildlife benefits. Bids should continue to be ranked through the use of an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI), as initiated after the 1990 Farm Bill.

2) More focus is needed o­n partial field conservation practices and other practices in priority areas with high environmental pay-offs, including riparian buffer systems streambank bioengineering, windbreaks, living terraces (contour hedgerows), wellhead protection zones, and wildlife habitat.

3) Convert CRP to a long-term protection program by using long-term easements to protect o­nly the most environmentally sensitive agricultural lands. The cost-benefits are low for continuing enrollment of lands in Land Capability Classes I-III (about 60% of the current enrollment). These productive lands should be allowed to be returned to cropping under Conservation Compliance.

4) Special consideration should be given to enrollment offers that incorporate multiple resource protection objectives, cooperative bids submitted by landowners with adjoining parcels, and practices that increase the effectiveness of other conservation practices. Joint bids linking across farms provide opportunities for enhanced environmental benefits at the watershed and landscape levels, for example, extending riparian buffer strips along a greater number of stream or lakeshore miles.

5) Establish sustainable economic uses of CRP lands, e.g., hay and grazing enterprises, high-value tree crops, tree products (nuts, foliage, etc), Christmas trees, woodlands, biomass, and tourism/recreation enterprises. Conversion should require a management plan and managed harvesting. Allow a 10-year contract extension if existing cover o­n CRP lands is converted to alternative managed economic use. Provide additional cost-share for tree planting o­n existing high priority CRP lands, in combination with contract extensions or easements.

6) Allow CRP land to be used as set-aside acres.

 

Agroforestry Issue Paper: Integrated Production Systems

More emphasis should be placed o­n integrated tree/crop/livestock farming systems that optimize economic production and environmental protection. Integrating tree, crop, and livestock production provides a means to expand and optimize farm products and income, while at the same time establish more sustainable systems.

Examples include silvopastoral systems, livestock windbreaks, living fences, livestock havens, buffer systems for confined livestock, alley cropping, tree/specialty crop systems, and forest/specialty crop systems.

Benefits accrue to animals, crops, ecosystems, and farmer income. Examples include livestock protection from environmental extremes, increased forage production, lower feed costs, increased survival of newborns, increased milk and wool production, alternative high-value crops, diversified income, buffering of pollutants in runoff water, and more sustainable production systems.

Tree/Livestock Systems

Silvopastoral systems (scattered trees in pastures) increase forage and animal production. Living fences separate pastures and provide both animal protection and tree products. Livestock windbreaks protect confined livestock in the farmstead, reducing feed costs. Clusters of trees in open ranges provide shelter from environmental extremes, especially during spring calving. Tree/shrub/grass buffer systems located between confined livestock operations and surface water help maintain water quality and convert excess nutrients into valuable tree products.

Tree/Crop Systems

Alley cropping is strips of trees or shrubs with crops grown in the alleys between the strips. Agricultural crops grown between tree/shrub rows provides annual income from the land during the early years while the longer-term nut or wood crop is establishing itself. In tree/specialty crop systems, the microclimate protection of trees enables the production of sensitive high-value crops in arduous environments, for example windbreak systems protecting herbs, fruits, vegetables, nursery stock, or flowers.

Forest/Crop Systems

Forest farming is managed systems where a high-value crop is grown under an existing forest overstory. Examples include ginseng, shiitake mushrooms, and certain foliage plants. These systems are distinguished from forest products in that the systems are intentionally established and intensively managed.

Agroforestry Issue Paper: Resolving Rural/Urban Interface Conflicts

Agroforestry technologies should be utilized to address rural/urban land-use conflicts and the problems stemming from both urbanization and farming practices. Problems addressed include: stormwater runoff; lack of greenspace; streambank erosion and sedimentation; municipal wastewater and sludge disposal; confined livestock waste; and control of wind, noise, odors, dust, and snow.

Appropriate technologies include streambank bioengineering, riparian buffer systems, living terraces, windbreaks to protect fields and screen confined livestock, living snowfences, tree/specialty crop systems, and wildlife habitat enhancement.

A Win-Win Situation 
Land-use conflicts are particularly acute at the rural/urban interface, and problems are shared by both rural and urban populations. Soil and Water Conservation Districts and State Conservation Agencies need to be more responsive to divergent rural/urban priorities. Agroforestry technologies can resolve the environmental conflicts between rural and urban land-uses, and at the same time establish stable, diverse, and aesthetic systems. Opportunities exist to establish new tree/specialty crop enterprises adjacent to urban markets. Tree planting in interface zones and urban watersheds provides an excellent opportunity to involve volunteer groups from both rural and urban areas to work together to achieve environmental protection goals.

More Bio-Engineering is Needed 
Treatment strategies need to go beyond constructed structures, such as channelization and floodwater impoundments. Integrating agroforestry technologies into farms, watersheds, and landscapes establishes a "green infrastructure" that protects system components, buffers environmental impacts, and retards stormwater runoff. Examples include streambank bioengineering as an alternative to rock gabions, multiple farm ponds and wildlife habitat plantings as an alternative to flood control dams, and windbreaks and riparian buffer strips as an alternative to channelization. Vegetative approaches enhance water infiltration and retard runoff, rather than speed its disposal.

Take Land Stewardship to the People
Nearly 70% of the U.S. population lives in our cities and communities. Thus, the rural/urban interface is an ideal high-visibility location to demonstrate agroforestry technologies, and involve rural and urban stakeholders in the process. Such a focus will help build understanding and acceptance of the complexities of land stewardship in agricultural regions and develop stronger working relationships.

Agroforestry Issue Paper: Policy Actions Needed for Agroforestry

Partnerships! Partnerships! Partnerships! 
Agroforestry is a hybrid, applied science and practice. Much emphasis is needed o­n building interdisciplinary teamwork, interagency partnerships, stakeholder participation in planning and delivery, and an ecosystem-based approach at farm, watershed, and landscape scales.

USDA Leadership is Needed 
Cross-agency and cross-disciplinary cooperation needs to be catalyzed to effectively develop and apply agroforestry. Federal agencies need to cooperate and provide national leadership. Specifically:

1) Establish an Interagency Coordinating Committee for Agroforestry to: (a) build understanding and support for agroforestry across agencies; (b) coordinate existing and new programs; and (c) identify needs, priorities and direction.

2) Expand the National Agroforestry Center (FACTA Section 1243) to an interagency joint
venture. The Center must work interactively with the existing national network of cooperators to catalyze. partnerships, cooperation, and synergy.

Research and Development 
In order to achieve the full potential of agroforestry, emphasis needs to be placed o­n needs-driven technology development. Decisions to implement costly incentive programs must be based o­n sound scientific information. Technology needs include improved practices and plant materials, quantifying the benefits of agroforestry, developing integrated production/ conservation systems, developing information integration systems to support ecosystem-based/watershed scale planning and program delivery, and socio-economic analyses.

Technology Transfer and Applications
Focused programs are needed to support the development and application of appropriate conservation technologies to meet the needs of multiple stakeholders. Programs should be needsdriven, competitive, and should encourage multidisciplinary teamwork that results in integration of technologies, involvement of stakeholders, and leveraging of funding through partnerships.

Technical Assistance and Landowner Incentives 
More emphasis is needed o­n watershed-level diagnosis, planning, and program delivery to achieve natural resource conservation. Technology assistance and cost-share programs should be targeted to attain the most cost-effective watershed-scale goals, rather than be approached o­n a first come/first served basis.