Making sustainability a consideration in trade.

The three pillars of agricultural sustainability include environmental, economic and social impacts. According to Bruce Knight, people in the agricultural sector have done a good job of calculating environmental impacts with life cycle analyses and other measures. Increasingly, people are finding the balance between achieving environmental objectives and boosting productivity.  For him, people have worked hard to ensure efficiencies in production through precision agriculture, pinpointing optimum inputs for maximum outputs, thus addressing economic concerns. “I know this is counterintuitive, but few farmers think of compliance with U.S. labor, environments and safety laws as a competitive advantage, but in the context of sustainability, they are also a clear part of telling the story” Knight have said.

However, there are still many things to do such as identify and account for social impacts. Impacts to agricultural workers may seem obvious and simple to identify-ensuring worker health and safety and offering decent wages. However, on a global basis it is also important to make sure that food, fiber and fuel are not produced by forced labor from slaves or prisoners or by children. In the U.S., with strong labor laws and a social compact that condemns such practices, people rarely even think about them.  The sustainability effort is global, just as the market for U.S. agricultural goods is global, and these issues are vitally important in other parts of the world.

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