An integrated Extension program can respond
to this national need. Such a program must
* focus on economic, environmental, legal, and
* result in flexible, globally competitive, resource
efficient, and profitable agricultural systems;
. ensure a safe food and water supply, and
" enhance integration of research, education, and
regulatory programs to better serve public inter-
est and private needs.
Extension will work with key people to identify
critical issues of national concern, define roles,
and manage cooperation among agencies and
private entities at all levels-national, state, and
During the past year, Extension Service, USDA
has worked hard to:
* Serve as an unbiased party, bringing together
diverse publics in agriculture to help them in-
tegrate past agricultural experiences with the
vision of sustainable agriculture.
* Build on the already established infrastructure
of the Extension Integrated Pest Management
* Define how biotechnology fits within sus-
tainable agriculture systems and assists farmers
and community organizations to use biotechnol-
ogy appropriately. Extension's role is to serve as
an unbiased interface between developers, ven-
dors, and users of tools from biotechnology.
* Develop and use computer-assisted expert sys-
tems that integrate environmentally sound
farming practices and technologies into whole
farm management plans to evaluate potential
profitability and sustainability. These decision
aides help farmers assess and manage risk.
HOW IS EXTENSION
Extension has data to show that the $7 million
annual investment in IPM has helped increase net
income to farmers in excess of $500 million per
year. Some IPM programs have expanded beyond
managing pests to managing the entire cropping
system. Examples include alfalfa in Oklahoma,
peaches ii South Carolina, and small grain in
In addition to IPM, all states have in place soil
testing and nutrient management, pesticide
education, soil and water conservation, and farm
management programs. Beyond this base, many
states are trying different approaches to resource
integration and sustainable agriculture education.
* using demonstrations comparing traditional
high-input systems with low-input systems;
* identifying workable farmer practices that may
bring improved sustainability, and carrying
them to both researchers and other farmers;
* identifying and teaching acceptable substitute
practices, such as continuing operations in the
face of tightened pesticide laws and using
animal waste as an alternative nutrient source;
* building on successful systems that appear to be
able to sustain into the future; and
* establishing sustainable agriculture centers.
CAN EXTENSION MEET
It must, but it can't do it alone and
it must do it with limited resources.
Every American has an interest in food
safety, food prices, safe drinking water,
a clean environment, and a strong
globally competitive economy that will
carry the country into the future.
Developing practical alternatives to
Extension as the comprehensive
vehicle for change would require
major new resource allocations.
The real question is whether
enough quality human capital and ade-
quate financial resources can be mobi-
lized to get the job done. The future
of America depends on it.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
CREATING A SUSTAINABLE
For systems to be sustainable, they must ul-
timately satisfy economic, environmental, and so-
cial expectations. American agriculture must be-
come more environmentally sound, socially
acceptable, globally competitive, and consistently
profitable to meet these criteria.
Striking a balance between economic and en-
vironmental factors in the short and long term is
essential. Policymakers, farmers, processors, dis-
tributors, consumers, and other Extension publics
have a right to expect the Cooperative Extension
System to provide educational leadership to meet
WHAT IS MEANT BY
Sustainable agriculture is a high-technology,
system. It relies on a balance of market response,
free enterprise, technology adaptation, and en-
vironmental sensitivity to meet the needs and
wants of society.
.Sustainable agriculture includes producing,
processing, marketing, and distributing products
that we currently accept, and many we can't yet
The production components of sustainable
agriculture must balance nature's contributions
with the available array of biological, chemical,
and other technologies. They must also be respon-
sive to scientific developments that meet sus-
HOW DOES SUSTAINABLE
FROM OR RELATE TO
Sustainable agriculture embraces several ap-
proaches -low input, organic, diversified, alter-
native, regenerative-as well as solutions to
problems such as water quality, food safety,
environmental concerns, farmworker safety,
profitability, and other issues. However, the ap-
plication of methods, technologies, strategies, and
approaches within the sustainable concept must
be tailored to fit current and expected local,
regional, and national needs and concerns.
AREN'T THERE CONFLICTS
Absolutely! And they arise from the varied
perspectives of the many key people involved. No
longer is the setting of agricultural policy simply
the business of farmers and professional agricul-
turists. The farmer, environmentalist, conser-
vationist, consumer, agricultural input supplier,
and the urban and nonfarm rural resident-all
differ significantly in their goals, knowledge base,
and self-interest. Therefore, development of suc-
cessful sustainable agricultural policies and prac-
tices will be guided by informed public com-
promises negotiated through political processes.
This can only be achieved through effective educa-
WHAT DO WE KNOW
We know a great deal about some of the physi-
cal, biological, economic, and social components
of agriculture. Some, such as Integrated Pest
Management, are currently in use. The challenge
is effectively merging the right components into a
broader sustainable agriculture system.
For example, biotechnology can provide im-
portant tools for sustainable agriculture systems..
However, it will require making technological, en-
vironmental, and socioeconomic assessments that
relate to the ethical concerns raised by some types
of genetic manipulation.
WHAT'S EXTENSION'S ROLE
IN THE SUSTAINABLE
The Cooperative Extension System, as a na-
tional educational network, links research,
science, and technology to the needs of people
where they live and work.
Extension's purpose is practical education and
assistance to Americans so they can deal with
issues critical to the Nation's future-issues such
as sustainable agriculture.
Extension education combines the expertise
and resources of federal, state, and local govern-
ments. The partners in this one-of-a-kind system
* Extension Service at the U.S. Department of
* Extension professionals at land-grant univer-
sities throughout the United States and its ter-
* Extension professionals in nearly all of the
Nation's 3,150 counties.
Thousands of paraprofessionals and nearly 3
million volunteers support this partnership and
magnify its impact. Strong linkages with both
public and private external groups are crucial to
the Extension System's strength and vitality.
WHAT IS EXTENSION'S
AGENDA FOR MOVING
TO A MORE SUSTAINABLE
As the only truly decentralized, public, infor-
mal education network in the United States, Ex-
tension today is moving proactively to help people
effectively address difficult issues, such as sus-