USDA report highlights efforts to expand agroforestry practices

Published on: Oct 28, 2013

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released the first-ever report on the agency's role advancing agroforestry. Agroforestry: USDA Reports to America details how agroforestry practices are helping farmers, ranchers and woodland owners enhance agricultural productivity, protect the environment and increase profits.

"USDA has invested less than 1% of its budget into tree-based practices. Yet that small investment allows us to help create private goods and public services that reap great rewards, including reduced greenhouse gas emissions and more resilient agricultural lands," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "However, much work remains to promote and sustain agroforestry practices, which have great potential to promote economic growth and job creation in rural communities."

Agroforestry is a management approach that intentionally combines agriculture and forestry to create more sustainable land-use systems. Over the last five years, USDA has assisted landowners financially and with technical guidance to establish roughly 336,000 acres of windbreaks, riparian forest buffers and alley cropping, about 2,000 acres of silvopasture and about 500 acres of forest farming. Those acres represent less than 1% of the potentially suitable land for applying those practices, suggesting there is an opportunity to significantly expand the application of agroforestry in the U.S., USDA said.

The report is a cross-departmental effort from eight agencies serving on the Agroforestry Executive Steering Committee: Agricultural Marketing Service, Agricultural Research Service, Farm Service Agency, National Agricultural Statistics Service, National Institute of Food & Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Development and U.S. Forest Service. These agencies work closely with the USDA National Agroforestry Center to advance the science, practice and application of agroforestry and guide implementation of the USDA Agroforestry Strategic Framework. A longer version of the report will be posted by USDA soon.