THE NATURAL LAW PARTY ENVISIONS a time when American farmers will farm in full accord with the laws of nature, fully utilizing natures creativity to yield abundant, healthy food, while protecting the environment and ensuring a vigorous, diversified, sustainable agricultural economy.
The future of agriculture depends on its sustainability -- that is, the ability of agricultural policies and practices to preserve and strengthen the farming economy, ecology, and community for future generations.
The recently passed Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (FAIR) has been heralded as a major change of direction for U.S. agriculture. But it has left many wondering whether crucial, fundamental changes have really been made in agricultural policy, and whether FAIR is fair -- especially for small family farms and for the environment. FAIR does not go far enough to ensure agricultural practices that are sustainable -- financially, environmentally, and socially.
1. Financially unsustainable
2. Environmentally unsustainable
3. Socially unsustainable
Agriculture is more than a business; it is a cornerstone of our national life. The food produced by farmers is basic to our health and national security, and farmland itself is an irreplaceable resource vital to sustenance of life. Therefore, government must help ensure the long-term viability of agriculture.
The Natural Law Party supports legislation that will ensure social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture while balancing the following goals: (1) ensuring an economical and healthful supply of high-quality food for consumers; (2) promoting health and longevity in farmers and in the population as a whole; (3) protecting natural resources and the environment; (4) cushioning farmers from the natural and financial instability unique to agriculture; (5) enabling farmers to better pursue financial profitability; and (6) restoring the vitality of rural communities.
The Natural Law Party has identified solutions to the problems faced by U.S. agriculture:
1. Given the far-reaching ecological and health impacts of genetic engineering, a moratorium should be imposed on the release of genetically engineered organisms until the safety of such organisms can be firmly established. In addition, to protect the publics right to know, labeling of genetically engineered foods should be mandatory.
2. Farm policies should be redirected to expand opportunities for new and existing farmers to prosper using sustainable systems that will enhance the health of the farmers and the population as a whole. Training and apprenticeship programs, loans, grants, and other incentives should be devised to assist conventional and entry-level farmers to adopt organic or more sustainable systems. Demonstration farms, farmer-to-farmer networks and field tours, and studies of successful alternative farming systems should be used to hasten the adoption of more sustainable practices.
3. The U.S. should change its policy focus from cheap (and unsafe) food for the consumer to quality food for the consumer on a sustainable basis. Through research and education, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is in a unique position to influence (a) practices of farmers and the food-production industry, and (b) the food choices and demands of consumers:
(a) Field-tested techniques supported by scientific research, such as integrated pest management, integrated crop management, and organic farming, already exist for farming profitably on a low-input, sustainable basis . On this basis, agrichemical use could be reduced 50% by the year 2002. The USDA should initiate and fund research into further development of alternative and chemical-free sustainable agricultural practices, with an emphasis on the development of systems and technologies that can be integrated economically and completely into all agricultural production. In addition, economists have developed accounting techniques that incorporate the costs of pollution and natural-resource depletion into agriculture’s balance sheet . Government legislation should make it a priority to disseminate these practices and techniques to the entire food production industry, showing farmers, producers, and consumers that sustainable food production practices are more cost-effective in the long run.
(b) Consumer demand drives agricultural supply. Changes in consumer preferences will create a shift toward less resource-intensive food production and a healthier food supply. (Today, the organic food market is the fastest growing segment of the food industry, increasing by 20% each year.) The USDA should initiate and fund research investigating the impact of dietary change on health and longevity, and then launch campaigns to educate the public. For example, government should fund vigorous programs to inform consumers that chemical-free food is possible now, at a reasonable price. Moreover, scientists have recently concluded that substantial public health and environmental benefits would likely result from more widespread use of vegetables, fruit, and plant-based protein in the diet . The government should educate the public about the health and environmental value of these foods in the diet.
Land-grant universities and extension services should also take the initiative to develop and disseminate sustainable agricultural practices and healthier dietary approaches.
4. Farm communities should seek new ways to keep value-added processes and profits as close as possible to the farm. Public policy should promote cooperative development of local processing facilities and diversification into the production of higher-value, specialized crops -- including chemical -- free production.
5. Family-sized farms should be protected and strengthened through more programs such as FAIRs Fund for Rural America, which supports value-added incentives, assistance for minority and beginning farmers, and other initiatives to empower farmers and rural communities to work towards revitalizing rural life. Even removing farm payment loopholes for large corporate agribusinesses would favor the viability of family-sized farms. Programs such as the Fund for Rural America should be given high priority and full funding.
6. For the above recommendations to be successful, however, it is necessary -- for the individual farmer and society as a whole -- to develop consciousness and gain more support of natural law. The Natural Law Party therefore recommends educational programs to develop the consciousness of the farmer and thereby reduce stress, improve the farmers health and well-being, and promote the skills to meet new management challenges. Such programs will enable farmers to spontaneously make better decisions and better use of the environment, and will bring them greater support of natural law in all their activities. Similarly, the reduction of stress in the collective consciousness of society, combined with the Natural Law Partys focus on education, will influence consumer choices toward higher-quality food, better health, and more life-enriching behavior -- life in accord with natural law . These programs will help ensure that the natural resources upon which agriculture depends will be available far into the future.
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