Agriculture has become synonymous with food production, but that is not always the case since farming operations also provide a safe habitat for wildlife besides playing a key role in reducing global warming. "Agriculture, which includes planted forests, is the world's largest human-managed ecosystem," said Scott Swinton, professor of agricultural economics at Michigan State University. "There is a huge area of land that people manage for food, fiber and fuel - these are all marketed products with a value attached to them. What we want to know is if we can also manage agriculture for things that people like and appreciate, but don't have markets, such as cleaner air, cleaner water, less global warming, wildlife habitat and aesthetics - many people enjoy seeing the green, open space of farmland in their communities."
Swinton will deliver a speech on "Harvesting Ecosystem Services from Agriculture" at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting. Frank Lupi, associate professor of agricultural economics and fisheries and wildlife at MSU
will moderate the symposium. "For many years, the focus of sustainable agriculture has been on avoiding negatives: water pollution, soil erosion, pesticide residues, etc. In the ecosystems services concept, we're focusing on services that people appreciate and enjoy. Since the amount of land involved in agriculture is so large, we have a strong motivation to provide farmers incentives to support the ecosystem," Swinton said. "We want to figure out which policies would encourage farmers to provide these ecosystem services, as well as how much citizens are willing to pay for the services."
The National Science Foundation funds the work.
MEDIA CONTACT: Scott Swinton, (517) 353-7218, firstname.lastname@example.org; Sue Nichols, University Relations, (517) 353-8942, email@example.com; or Jamie DePolo, Michigan Agriculture Experiment Station, (609) 354-8403, firstname.lastname@example.org