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DATE: October 15, 2002
CONTACT: Craig Cheslog (510-444-3041)


Please follow this link to download a pdf version of this paper.

OAKLAND, Calif.—Redefining Progress today released a report, Sustainable Agriculture and Common Assets: Stewardship Success Stories, which profiles farmers who are utilizing sustainable agriculture practices. These practices provide benefits to farmers and their communities while also protecting natural common assets now and into the future.

The report defines three common assets--natural floodplains, native pollinators, and the atmosphere--and describes their links to agricultural practices that help maintain their health. Linking common assets and sustainable agriculture creates a conceptual and policy framework to expand the farmer's "bottom line" by accounting for currently ignored social and environmental costs and benefits.

Preserving our common assets can be financially beneficial to both farmers and society. The report outlines success stories where farmers practice sustainable agriculture in ways that preserve a common asset, which in turn provides greater benefits to nature, the local community, and the farmers themselves.

The report makes five recommendations for improving the health of natural common assets and the sustainability of agriculture. Policymakers at multiple levels of government, educators, researchers, farmers, and nongovernmental organizations have important roles to play in this process. The recommendations include:

  1. Research and recognize the value of natural common assets to farmers--as well as urban and rural communities--and compensate management practices that improve the health of these assets.
  2. Improve the role of agriculture in the education system at all levels (university, high school, and elementary school) and better incorporate sustainable agriculture into existing agricultural research programs.
  3. Reexamine the emphasis on policies that guarantee cheap food, so that food prices may better reflect the positive services farms can provide and help farmers avoid externalizing costs.
  4. Experiment and invest in demonstration projects to illustrate the effectiveness of new management regimes, which will increase adoption by farmers.
  5. Use a systems approach when dealing with the agricultural sector that encompasses all of the relevant actors and streamlines solutions.

Redefining Progress is a nonprofit public policy organization in Oakland, Calif., that advances economic, social, and environmental sustainability.