Working Landscapes

Consensus Recommendations

Working Landscapes: Achieving Productivity, Profitability, and Environmental Outcomes

AGree envisions a 21st century food and ag system in which farms and ranches are productive and able to meet growing demand for affordable and nutritious food; farming and ranching are profitable enterprises; soil, water, and biodiversity are conserved and enhanced; and environmental quality is maintained or improved. We believe that American farmers and ranchers have had remarkable success to date in achieving many aspects of this vision. Challenges remain in maintaining and improving soil health, water quality, and habitat in many agricultural regions, and as agriculture moves forward, new challenges associated with a changing climate, shrinking water supplies, shifting dietary preferences, and growing populations must also be addressed.

Strategy: AGree’s Working Landscapes Initiative seeks to set U.S. agriculture more firmly on a path toward achieving our common vision by advancing the following strategies:

  • Embrace diverse agricultural systems to ensure achievement of sustainability, productivity, and profitability goals;
  • Expand producer-led cooperative conservation across U.S. working lands;
  • Improve soil health and water quality and quantity through targeted investments;
  • Increase understanding of the overall benefits, costs, and health and safety of agricultural inputs, practices, and systems; and
  • Foster collaboration across the supply chain to drive innovation and improved environmental outcomes.

To amplify current efforts and accelerate progress, AGree proposes specific goals that we believe are indicative of the scope, scale, and pace of change necessary to realize our vision. The achievement of these goals will require the integrated pursuit of these five strategies.

Consensus Recommendations:

Action Agenda

AGree’s Working Landscapes Initiative is pursuing two primary areas of work.  

1. Drive broader adoption of conservation practices on working lands, while maintaining a viable federal crop insurance program, across the U.S.: AGree’s Conservation and Crop Insurance Task Force (CCITF) is working collaboratively with diverse interests to devise practical strategies for these efforts in alignment with its consensus Principles.  Since 2013, Task Force members have also focused on building broad support for solutions that are grounded in data-driven research. The CCITF’s priorities include:
      • Stronger data management systems at USDA that would give researchers the ability to study the impacts of conservation practices on crop yields, farm and ranch profitability, and environmental outcomes, while maintaining producer privacy and anonymity.
      • Improved federal guidance on conservation practices that will remove roadblocks for producers and facilitate widespread adoption of conservation practices.
2. Advance Cooperative Conservation: Catalyze and support on-the-ground projects to test and refine the Working Lands Conservation Partnership approach developed through the AGree process. AGree’s efforts include the following:
    • Identify places with strong potential and significant need.
    • Help connect and convene diverse stakeholders.
    • Provide strategic, coalition and institution-building, and project design support.
    • Convene leaders from various projects to share learnings, tools, and resources.
    • Leverage project successes to effect state and federal policy change (as well as sustainable sourcing program change, where applicable) to support cooperative conservation on a broader scale.

Related Publications

Integrated Crop-Livestock Systems: Strategies to Reduce Risk and Increase Farm Resilience:

This paper by Anna Herzberger, Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability is not an official AGree publication and is intended to serve as an information resource. 10 pages. April 2019.

Innovations in Agriculture Data Collection:
This paper by Doug Lawrence, former NRCS Deputy Chief for Soil Survey and Resource Assessment, and William Salas, President of Applied GeoSolutions is not an official AGree publication and is intended to serve as an information resource. 18 pages. April 2019.
Specialty Crop Risk Management:

This paper was authored by Cara Fraver, National Young Farmers Coalition, Scott Marlow,Rural Advancement Foundation International, and Jonathan Coppess,Coppess Consulting, LLC is not an official AGree publication and is intended to serve as an information resource. 18 pages. April 2019.

Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage:

This paper authored by Brandon Willis, former Administrator of USDA’s Risk Management Agency is not an official AGree publication and is intended to serve as an information resource. 16 pages. April 2019.

The Role of the Banking and Financing Sector in Encouraging Conservation Practices and Organic Transitions:

This paper written by Josh Woodard, Cornell University and Ag-Analytics, Bruce Sherrick and Jonathan Coppess, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Dave Muth Jr., Alternative Equity Advisors is not an official AGree publication and is intended to serve as an information resource. 48 Pages. April 2019.

USDA and Agriculture Data: Improving Productivity while Protecting Privacy:

This paper by Todd J. Janzen of Janzen Agricultural Law, LLC and Laurie Ristino of Vermont Law School is not an official AGree publication and is intended to serve as an information resource. 6 pages. July 2018.

Crop Insurance, Credit, and Conservation:

This academic working paper by Joshua D. Woodard of Cornell University and Scott Marlow of the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA is not an official AGree publication and is intended to serve as an information resource. 16 pages. April 2017.

Four Papers on the U.S. Federal Crop Insurance Program:

This compilation of Point of View and Background papers was written by independent authors; the collection of views and analyses presented in them do not represent official AGree positions nor the opinions of AGree Co-Chairs, Advisors, and partners. The papers are intended to stimulate thoughtful dialogue. 126 pages. March 2016.
Soil, Conservation, and Federal Crop Insurance. By Joshua D. Woodard.
Potential Conservation Implications of Federal Crop Insurance Actual Production History (APH) Procedures. By Barry J. Barnett and Ryan Stockwell.
Public and Private Roles in Agricultural Risk Transfer. By Barry Barnett, Keith Coble and Stephanie Mercier.
Private Sector Risk Management Tools. By Mike Boehlje and Steve Hofing.

Soil Data Not Considered in Cornerstone U.S. Agricultural Policy:

This academic working paper by Joshua D. Woodard and Leslie J. Verteramo Chiu of Cornell University is not an official AGree publication and is intended to serve as an information resource. Joshua D. Woodard and Leslie J. Verteramo Chiu, February 2016.

Integrating High Resolution Soil Data into Federal Crop Insurance Rates: Actuarial, Policy, and Sustainability Implications:

This academic working paper by Joshua D. Woodard of Cornell University is not an official AGree publication and is intended to serve as an information resource. Joshua D. Woodard, January 2016.

Quantifying Benefits from Adoption of Conserving Agricultural Practices:

This paper provides details about public and private data sets that USDA and others could integrate and analyze, and potential uses of these data analysis findings. Stephanie Mercier. 18 pages. February 2015.

Collaborating for Healthy Watersheds:

A collaborative white paper by AGree, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), and the U.S. Water Alliance. 40 pages, February 2015.

Five Point of View Papers on Achieving Productivity, Profitability, and Environmental Outcomes in U.S. Agriculture: Overview and Abstracts:

Overview and abstracts of five papers offering diverse perspectives on how to achieve productivity, profitability, and environmental outcomes in U.S. agriculture, authored by leading producers and other practitioners and experts at the intersection of agriculture and conservation. 5 pages. September 2014.

1. Cooperative Conservation: A Producer-Led Approach to Achieving Healthy Agricultural Landscapes:

Authored by Kristin Weeks Duncanson, owner and partner of Duncanson Growers in Minnesota, former Director of the American Soybean Board, and AGree Advisory Committee member; Jim Moseley, former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Indiana farmer, and AGree Co-Chair; and Fred Yoder, Ohio farmer, past President of the National Corn Growers Association, and AGree Advisory Committee member. 14 pages, September 2014.

2. Increasing Sustainability of America’s Working Landscapes Through Improved Public-Private Collaborations at Multiple Scales:

Authored by Jim Faulstich, Vice Chairman of Partners for Conservation and Daybreak Ranch; Steve Jester, Executive Director, Partners for Conservation; and Jim Stone, Chairman of Partners for Conservation and cattle rancher. 16 pages, September 2014.

3. Towards a Knowledge Infrastructure for Science-Based Policy and Sustainable Management of Agricultural Landscapes:

Authored by John Antle, Professor, Susan Capalbo, Department Head and Professor, and Laurie Houston, Faculty Research Associate, Department of Applied Economics, Oregon State University. 16 pages, September 2014.

4. Securing the Future of Western Agriculture: A Perspective of Western Producers:

Authored by Pat O’Toole, Owner of Ladder Livestock, Family Farm Alliance President and AGree Advisory Committee member, and Dan Keppen, Executive Director, Family Farm Alliance. 24 pages, September 2014.

5. Food and Beverage Company Sustainable Sourcing Initiatives in Farming Regions:

Authored by Hal Hamilton, Co-Director, Sustainable Food Lab and AGree Advisory Committee member and Elizabeth Reaves, Program Associate, Sustainable Food Lab. Portions contributed by Sean McMahon, North American Agriculture Program Director, The Nature Conservancy; Steve Peterson, Director of Sourcing Sustainability, General Mills; and Jan Kees Vis, Sustainable Agriculture Director, Unilever. 20 pages, September 2014.

Collaborative Management of Agricultural Landscapes: Achieving Measurable Conservation Improvements:

This report includes a thematic summary of the discussion, abstracts of the presentations, and the project descriptions from an AGree convened workshop on March 21, 2013, of leaders from a sampling of best-in-class watershed projects from across the U.S. 70 pages. July 2013.

Agricultural Conservation & Environmental Programs: The Challenge of Measuring Performance:

This report—which is based on a literature review and synthesis, as well as consultation with a diverse group of experts—summarizes the challenges of measuring environmental outcomes and reviews differing types of performance measures and their utility in measuring the effectiveness of practices, programs, and policies. The report seeks to enhance understanding of the ways in which agricultural and environmental policy might be assessed and integrated. By Sarah Bates, and Lynn Scarlett, with contributions from Matthew McKinney, Nathan Stone, and David Whisenand. 34 pages. April 2013.