USDA to Begin Promoting Agroforestry

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) says it will make promotion of agroforestry a priority for the first time in the coming years.

Agroforestry is the practice of including trees among fields on farm land. For years, the USDA viewed this as unnecessary, but it is becoming more common with the growing interest in and understanding of the importance of sustainable agriculture.

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan spoke on the topic Monday at the North American Agroforestry Conference at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Merrigan says the agency will educate its staff on the practice and provide resources to help farmers learn about the benefits, which include increased soil fertility and reduced stormwater runoff.

Researchers at the conference also noted that carbon sequestration provided by agroforestry can reduce the net amount of greenhouse gases released by farmland.

Indeed, organic farming practices which build the soil, have long included agroforestry, as well as a range of native perennials. They have been widely shown to sequester huge amounts of carbon in the soil. They also provide critical habitat for pollinators.

Merrigan said increasing interest in the practice will also lead to new research, identifying which types of trees will be most beneficial with certain crops in different regions of the country.

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