3.2: Farm Inputs Add to Collection

Download 3.2: Farm Inputs (PDF 12MB) Add to Collection

Dorr Farm, Manchester, Vermont. Photo: Sonya Terjanian

Before food production can occur, a number of critical inputs are required, from land to labor and from seed to feed. A major switchover—from human and animal based labor—to fossil fuel based inputs and fossil fuel dependency has changed the face of American agriculture. Most Vermont farms today rely on out-of-state sources for equipment, seeds, feed, fuel, and fertilizer. A recent USDA report found that “the largest four firms in the crop seed, agricultural chemical, animal health, animal genetics/breeding, and farm machinery sectors accounted for more than 50 percent of global market sales in each sector.”

Since 1948, American farmers have made more food and other agricultural products on less land and with less labor but with more petroleum-based material inputs, and most farmers have made less money in the bargain. Vermont farmers have produced slightly more milk, with fewer cows and fewer dairy farms, but the volatility of milk pricing and increased material input costs have meant that, on average, many farmers are making less now than they did in 1970. The cost of petroleum has increased dramatically since 1998, and prices for energy and petroleum-based inputs will continue to rise with the peaking of world oil production. In addition, gains in agricultural productivity have commonly been achieved at the expense of the natural environment. Environmental degradation of land, air, and water resources, and other ecosystem disturbances (e.g., climate change) have proliferated with increased petroleum use.

Developing strategies to address rising material input costs—and other interrelated issues such as land access and availability, water use and pollution, import substitution, and soil health—in ways that are aligned with climate change adaptation strategies is crucial to the sustainability of Vermont’s food system.

The sections of 3.2: Farm Inputs describe a variety of programs for conserving land, expanding access to land (e.g., conservation easement programs, cooperative land management arrangements, and farm incubator programs), protecting soils, reducing runoff, improving forage management and storage, and increasing on-farm energy production, as well as opportunities for strengthening and expanding these programs.



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Resources

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