USDA sees ‘agroforestry’ as new source of revenue for farmers, ranchers
June 7, 2011
• Says it would improve the environment and make better use of land
• ‘Agroforestry does not sacrifice farmland for forests or forests for farmland’
Agroforestry, in which agriculture and forestry are combined to create integrated and sustainable land-use systems, could be a new revenue stream for farmers and ranchers, even as it helps improve the environment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.
"Agroforestry does not sacrifice farmland for forests or forests for farmland," says USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. "Rather, agroforestry is the marriage of disciplines that, in the end, will protect our natural resources, benefit our communities and allow for the development of other sources of income for farmers, ranchers and woodland owners. Agroforestry can enhance values for any landowner."
Agroforestry practices may appear like a living patchwork quilt across entire watersheds, the USDA says. For instance, managed forest canopies in a woodland area can protect a range of crops grown for food, landscaping, and medicinal use — plants such as shiitake mushrooms, ramps, ginseng, goldenseal, curly willow and Galax. Likewise, farmers and ranchers who plant pine trees on land used for livestock and forage production can add to their profits by selling pine straw and high-value saw logs.
"The foundation of agroforestry is putting trees to work in conservation and production systems. Agroforestry begins with placing the right plant, in the right place, for the right purpose," says Andy Mason of the U.S. Forest Service and leader of the Interagency Agroforestry Team that developed the framework with input from diverse stakeholders.
"This framework will help USDA focus its efforts on developing the highest priority science and tools while expanding its educational, training, and partnership activities so that America's farmers, ranchers and woodland owners have the greatest opportunity to consider agroforestry for their operation," he says.
The USDA says its “Agroforestry Strategic Framework” is built around three simple goals:
• Increase the use of agroforestry by landowners and communities;
• Advance the understanding of and tools for applying agroforestry; and,
• Incorporate agroforestry into an all-lands approach to conservation and economic development.
Agroforestry provides benefits beyond rural areas, the USDA says. In rural-urban interface areas agroforestry practices can improve wildlife habitat, mitigate the movement of odors and dust, serve as noise barriers and act as filters that help keep water clean, and do "double duty" as green spaces where food and other products can be grown, it says.