, Farm Journal Crops & Issues Editor
How do you measure sustainability? Farmers will soon be able to analyze their natural resource use and key crop production inputs through at online tool introduced today at the Commodity Classic by Field to Market, The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture.
Called the Fieldprint Calculator, the confidential online tool is free and is intended to help farmers evaluate the nature resource use on their operation compared to industry averages. It was developed with input from a diverse group of grower organizations, agribusinesses, food companies, economists and conservation groups.
The calculator becomes available March 15 at www.fieldtomarket.org
. To begin the program, growers are being asked to sign up to test and provide feedback on the system.
The new data-drive calculator has been designed to illustrate the connection between resource and economic sustainability. The idea is to show that growers how their choices impact natural resources, production levels and ultimately the efficiency of their operation.
"I like this tool,” says Doug Goehring, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat in Menoken, North Dakota. "It demonstrates how U.S. agriculture measures up with regard to sustainability. It helps me reaffirm how sustainable I really am.” Goehring adds that agricultural must make sense economically, as well as environmentally, or it's not sustainable. He says he will use the tool to provide insight and guide future decisions on the type of technology and practices he might want to adapt.
The tool is still evolving, says Sarah Alexander of the Keystone Center. In addition to benchmarking their operation against the industry index, the calculator allows growers to securely save data to compare year-to-year changes, which can help determine the value and impact of new practices. Ultimately the site will serve as an online community where growers can learn from experiences of other growers and gain expert advice.
Field to Market, the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, includes representatives from throughout the food and fiber chain, including grower organizations, agribusinesses, food companies and conservation organizations. The group defines agricultural sustainability as meeting the needs of the present while improving the ability to feed future generations by focusing on increasing agricultural productivity while decreasing environmental impact, improving human health through access to safe, nutritious food and improving social and economic well-being of rural communities.