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April 7 & 8, 2011
Marriott Hotel at Metro Center, Washington, D.C.

National Agricultural Landscapes Forum
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The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, American Farmland Trust, and Farm Foundation NFP invite you to participate in a forum to address the future of U.S. agriculture, natural resource conservation and rural lands. Join agricultural, conservation, environmental, land use and rural development thought-leaders from across the country in a vigorous discussion about how to improve agricultural conservation policies and outcomes in the context of tight budgets, the need for greater governmental efficiency, competing interests, rapid technological change and private sector innovations.

A Blue Ribbon Panel of authorities in agriculture and conservation—farmers, former state secretaries of agriculture, government officials and other conservation leaders—will be helping to guide the discussion and provide thought-provoking insights. Regional Roundtables held in advance of the Forum by Farm Foundation NFP will bring diverse “on-the-ground” perspectives to inform Forum discussions.

Please join us April 7 & 8 in this dialogue to generate information and insights aimed at supporting agriculture as a critical and viable component of the nation’s landscape and ensuring the sustainable use of key natural resources on which our nation depends.


The National Agricultural Landscapes Forum will bring together prominent agricultural, environmental, business and policy leaders to debate policy, program and economic challenges and opportunities that will shape the future of the agricultural landscape and rural regions. The Forum’s emphasis is on examining current and potential ways to do business differently given budgetary constraints and demands for private sector responses, including public/private partnerships and collaboration between governmental authorities. The goal is to develop improved approaches, policies and use of resources to support agriculture as a critical component of the nation’s landscape and to ensure the sustainable use of our land and water. The outcomes will contribute to USDA’s program report to Congress for the Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act [PDF].

The Forum will

  • engage the audience in policy dialogue about the best ways to organize, fund and deliver regional and landscape-scale conservation and
  • provide national, state and local policymakers with information and insights to improve delivery of public services at all levels of government, especially towards strengthening the efficiency and effectiveness of federal government programs aimed at improving environmental quality and rural development.

Resource Issues on the Forum Agenda

  • Landscape Integrity – Connected landscapes that support agricultural production and provide environmental benefits (e.g., wildlife habitat) face increasing challenges from urban/suburban development, climate change and other forces. How much land do we need for food, energy, bio-diversity and ecosystem benefits?  Have we already converted too much? How can jurisdictions work together on a regional or landscape scale to address growth and development? What will be the effects of increased weather variability on the agricultural landscape? How can we build our soil resources and address regional differences in definitions of prime and unique farmland?
  • Water Security – Agriculture is our nation’s largest water user, but increasing demand and shifting consumption patterns are challenging water quality and quantity for all sectors, including agriculture. How much water do we have? Do we need? Have we already diverted too much? How do we improve how communities grow to protect water rights and ensure enough water to grow our food as well as our cities? How might new policies encourage producers to work together in a strategic, coordinated fashion to improve water quality? Is there a way to streamline the regulatory framework between agencies like USDA and EPA to improve environmental outcomes?

These issues will be explored in the context of forces affecting conservation outcomes:

  • Market Forces – Private markets may provide opportunities to accelerate conservation. How might these be best developed to benefit their participants and the environment?
  • Innovation, Technology and Research – Rapid advancements in physical, biological and information technologies are creating new means to augment conservation gains. How can these ensure maximum environmental gain?
  • Institutional Arrangements – Legal, regulatory and normative arrangements (policies, programs, resources) can serve to lessen conflicts and balance competing objectives for agriculture (e.g., increasing food supply and exports, ensuring food safety, keeping food costs low, improving environmental performance). How might these be strengthened? 

Who Should Attend?

The Forum will convene public and private sector leaders from agriculture, the environment, land use and rural development to discuss how to improve agricultural conservation policies and outcomes. Leaders from USDA will attend, and invitations have been extended to officials of the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Interior and related agencies.

The Forum is open to the public. Anyone who cares about the future of America's agricultural landscape should attend. It will provide an opportunity to join agricultural and conservation thought-leaders from across the country and to voice your perspectives on 21st Century policies and programs that will shape the use of the nation’s agricultural landscape.

NRCS Farm Foundation
American Farmland Trust
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