World leaders meeting in Nagoya, Japan last month discussed plans to reduce the rate of global biodiversity loss. Biodiversity is integral to protecting habitat and species at risk, as farmers well know. Perception in the media usually focuses on the habitat-conservation side of this multi-faceted issue. But farmers recognize that crop variety is also a major factor in how the world deals with environmental preservation. As the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) emphasized, crop biodiversity is a strategic resource for sustainable development and eradicating hunger, and it provides resilience against environmental disasters. The FAO went so far as to say that future food security may be at risk unless agricultural biodiversity is made more of a priority.
While our leaders discuss biodiversity at high-level international conferences, farmers continue their ongoing environmental efforts here at home. They keep a cautious eye toward maintaining productive land for years to come. They use environmentally conscious practices, such as no-till farming, crop rotation, water quality control, riparian-area buffer zones, grazing/ forage management, and other habitat protection. This first-hand appreciation of nature’s riches, and the need to cultivate with care, gives farmers a unique perspective in developing effective land-use practices.
Together, farm organizations are a valuable source of knowledge for government and other land-use decisions makers. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) prides itself in partnering with various advisory groups, such as the federal Species-at-Risk Advisory Committee, to ensure that policies are created with clear objectives and practical implementation measures. The CFA works continuously to draw attention to the fact that farming is no longer about simply growing food. Its National Food Strategy, launched earlier this year, will highlight the many socioeconomic connections between producers and consumers, and this includes environmental stewardship. All members of society benefit from the environmental efforts of farmers. They should be recognized and supported for these services.
Agriculture is an active participant in biodiversity protection through various private initiatives, innovative partnerships and organizational activities as described above. This leadership needs to be recognized and valued in any discussions about biodiversity.