Farm Foundation explores new ‘paradigm’ for conservation | TheFencePost.com

Farm Foundation explores new ‘paradigm’ for conservation

The Farm Foundation held a discussion last week on conservation. From left, Farm Foundation President Constance Cullman; Jonathan Coppess of the University of Illinois; Josette Lewis of the Environmental Defense Fund; Laura Peterson of Syngenta, and American Farmland Trust President and CEO John Piotti.

A Farm Foundation forum last week explored possibilities for public-private collaboration on conservation projects.

Much of the panel discussion focused on who should pay for projects to achieve goals from which the public benefits.

Laura Peterson, the head of government relations for Syngenta, noted the consumer interest in sustainability and asked, "Will the grocery store of the future have a 5-cent checkoff for conservation?"

Peterson asked why the cost of sustainability should be "on the back of the farmer" when the rest of society benefits.

"The farmer is just trying to make it another year," she said. "How do we get more attention on all of us sharing this obligation?"

Jonathan Coppess, a former Senate Agriculture Committee aide who now is a professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana, Champaign, said he is concerned that the attention on the impact of farm runoff on drinking water may be counterproductive.

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"It is not in a farmer's interest to put nitrate in the water," Coppess said, explaining that farmers want fertilizer to help crops grow rather than be wasted.