University of New Hampshire
International Business and Economics
Mentor: Dr. John Halstead, UNH Department of Natural Resources & the Environment
Sustainable Agriculture: Policy Challenges of Northern New England
Sustainable agriculture, as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture, means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will 1) satisfy human food and fiber needs, 2) enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends, 3) make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls, 4) sustain the economic viability of farm operations, and 5) enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.
Many farmers and activist groups have come to the conclusion that “federal, state and local government policies often impede the goals of sustainable agriculture” (Feenstra, Ingels and Campbell 1). This misrepresentation of the sustainable agricultural sector’s interests has fostered an emerging coalition of family farm, church, labor, consumer and environmental groups, that have spoken out on a national level for the past several years to argue that “new policies are needed to simultaneously promote environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity” (Feenstra, Ingels and Campbell 1). In order to implement policies that will benefit the farmers in need, it is necessary to understand where the problems are occurring and precisely, what is hindering sustainable agriculture operations.
In agricultural policy there are issues which are restricted to specific geographic regions. New England is home to a diverse set of crops and region specific challenges are prevalent. With this in mind, it is the goal of this research project to indentify policy needs and challenges that impede the economic viability of farmers at sustainable agriculture operations in Northern New England (Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine) based on feedback from institutional and grassroots organizations that interact with these farmers.