Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a cooperative partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Canada's Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food that will promote agroforestry to help landowners improve water quality, control soil erosion and boost their agriculture production.
"We support agroforestry as a land management approach because it helps landowners achieve certain natural resource goals, such as clean water and productive soils," said Vilsack. "But it does much more. Clean water is a precious natural resource, and America's economic success is directly related to a continuous and abundant supply of clean water."
The Memorandum of Understanding establishing the cooperative partnership will allow USDA's National Agroforestry Center — jointly sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service — and Canada's Agri-Environment Service Branch's Agroforestry Development Centre to collaborate on research and development, including the advancement of agroforestry science and tools for climate change mitigation and adaptation in temperate North America.
The two centers will also support the Global Research Alliance on Agriculture Greenhouse Gases, of which both countries are members. Information will be shared with landowners, managers, and natural resource professionals.
"Canada and the U.S. have a strong relationship with regards to many aspects of the agricultural sector," said Canada's Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. "I'm pleased that we can now add agroforestry to that growing list, as agroforestry is an area that is not only good for the environment, but also for our farmers' bottom lines."
Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan signed the agreement on behalf of USDA and Deputy Minister John Knubley signed on behalf of Canada's Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
Agroforestry practices range from traditional windbreaks protecting soil, crops and livestock to emerging science-based practices that protect water and air quality and help boost landowner profits. Agroforestry practices can serve multiple purposes. For example, pine trees can shelter grazing cattle and also produce a sellable crop. Those same trees also serve as filters between crops and sources of water; store carbon; reduce noise and erosion; and provide food, shelter, nesting and travel corridors for wildlife.
Agroforestry practices are not limited to rural settings. They can connect urban communities to the surrounding rural landscape. Cumulatively, these conservation practices contribute to the overall health and sustainability of a community and its surroundings.
"Through agroforestry, we're combining agriculture and working trees to maximize environmental benefits on the landscape, while creating sustainable farming systems," said Harris Sherman, USDA's Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. "In many cases, agroforestry can put higher profits into the hands of landowners and help create jobs for local communities."
USDA works with state, local, and Tribal governments and private landowners to conserve and protect our nation's natural resources – helping preserve our land and clean our air and water. President Obama launched the America's Great Outdoors initiative in 2010 to foster a 21st century approach to conservation that is designed by and accomplished in partnership with the American people. During the past two years, USDA's conservation agencies — the U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Farm Service Agency — have delivered technical assistance and implemented restoration practices on public and private lands. USDA is working to better target conservation investments by embracing locally driven conservation and entering partnerships that focus on large, landscape-scale conservation.