As Mark Hertsgaard’s Op-Ed in the New York Times Thursday, September 13th explained, the US House of Representatives is in legislative gridlock, failing to come to any agreement that would put a new Farm Bill on the books. Even if Congress did pass a bill, however, neither a House version nor the Senate version would create policy that is environmentally sustainable and socially responsible. Instead of supporting sustainable methods that increase biodiversity and allow farmers to accommodate severe weather changes before they occur, any version of the Farm Bill passed this year will increase funding for crop insurance, a measure that bandages but does not solve the problems caused by industrial agriculture. We need alternative policies to those that deplete soils and impoverish small farmers. How can states contribute to and foster the development of alternative agricultural systems?

In his 2010 report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Oliver De Schutter, makes recommendations on how states can build a food system based on Agroecology. Agroecology is both a science and a practice, and it is based on the principle that agricultural systems should seek to replicate natural processes as opposed to intervening in them. Importantly, agroecological methods advocate for reducing the use of synthetic fertilizers, increasing efforts to produce natural fertilizers on farms, integrate soil biota and livestock into agricultural systems, and enhance biodiversity. All of these techniques follow the principles of the Right to Food—to ensure that food is available, accessible, adequate, sustainable, and participatory for all.

To make agroecologically-based food systems a reality, De Schutter recommends that states make investments in infrastructure, education, and grassroots organization. Infrastructural investments include storage facilities, implements, and facilities for producing natural fertilizer. Investment in education involves the creation of extension services to experiment and develop locally relevant agroecological methods, spread information about agroecological practices nationally and internationally, and collect the insights of local farmers and other experts. Organizationally, states need to foster workers collectives and organizational forms that promote farmer participation in the development of new techniques.

Follow this link to read the full report: