USFRA released the report at its annual Honor the Harvest Forum, co-hosted by The Aspen Institute, which virtually convened more than 200 farmer, rancher, food, agricultural, finance, science and technology leaders to finalize a first-of-its-kind food and agriculture sector-wide vision: a future where a resilient, restorative, economically viable and climate-smart agricultural system produces abundant and nutritious food, natural fiber and clean energy for a sustainable, vibrant and prosperous America.
"Farmers and ranchers are uniquely positioned to reduce greenhouse gas emissions using on-farm practices that increase carbon storage and improve soil, but they can't do it alone," USFRA chief executive officer Erin Fitzgerald said. "The agriculture industry is currently on a trajectory to halve its carbon footprint in the next 10 years. Continued innovation and collaboration at scale is required from every corner of the food and agriculture value chain to reduce greenhouse gases and provide for our communities."
According to the report -- "U.S. Agriculture's Opportunities to Contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals" -- U.S. agriculture contributes to all 17 SDGs to sustain people, the planet and prosperity. Reflecting both progress to date and new avenues to address national and global challenges, the sector has an outsized positive impact on a core group of seven SDGs: clean water and sanitation, climate action, decent work and economic growth, life below water, life on land, responsible consumption and production and zero hunger.
Unmatched collaboration across the food value chain is required to recover from recent events and build resiliency to manage future shocks and ensure that climate-smart agriculture solutions are accessible and affordable for farmers and ranchers, USFRA said in a news release. Disaster events caused more than $560 billion in damages in the U.S. from 2010 to 2019, before the global COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions and extreme weather events of 2020.
"There has never been a more important time in our history to co-create the sustainable food systems of the future," USFRA board chairman and seventh-generation farmer Chip Bowling said. "At this year's Honor the Harvest Forum, we deepened focus on coordinating efforts to ensure our food system remains resilient and adaptive to meet challenges on the farm and throughout the supply chain to continue to feed people and support communities."
This year's Honor the Harvest forum builds on USFRA's 2019 convening, which brought together food and agriculture sector thought leaders to create an action framework for the next decade of agriculture. The 2020 event featured working sessions with farmers, ranchers and food industry stakeholders who will advance their sector-wide vision through individual and collective commitments supporting four outcome areas:
- Restore the environment through agriculture that regenerates natural resources;
- Revitalize the collective appreciation for agriculture;
- Invest in the next generation of agricultural systems, and
- Strengthen the social and economic fabric of America through agriculture.
Commitments – which include actions already in progress – will be solidified over the next year to advance these outcomes through focused investments, optimized data, metrics and technology, authentic storytelling and workforce development.
"Americans have a greater appreciation today than they did prior to the pandemic for the connectedness of our agricultural and food systems – and the impact to their daily lives," The Aspen Institute executive director of energy and environmental program Greg Gershuny said. "Now, more than ever, we need to work together to co-create and enable the sustainable food systems of the future."
"Farmers are the original conservationists. We know how important it is to protect the soil, but farmers alone can't be responsible for this monumental task," 4-H member and USFRA Honor the Harvest Advisory Council member Addy Battel said. "The next generation of agricultural leaders is already at work with partners across the sector to bring real change."
"We must accelerate investment in science and data to enable farmers to rapidly respond to climate change," Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research executive director and USFRA board member Dr. Sally Rockey said. "Doing so will help restore our environment, regenerate natural resources and advance the next generation of agricultural systems."