WGF Members Author Sustainable Food Systems Paper

WI Green Fire, November 17, 2021

Wisconsin farm landscape

Agriculture uses more land and water than any other human activity, and our consumption demands continue to grow even as our resource base shrinks. A highly industrialized U.S. food system produces lots of food at seemingly low per unit cost. But our current system is taking a heavy toll on farmers and the environment, and it fails to account for critical environmental costs. Our food is costing us (and future generations) far more than we think.

On average, farmers receive just 15 cents of our food dollar, and their share has been falling. Wisconsin lost half of its dairy farmers in the last decade, even as state milk production (led by larger farms) increased by 25%. While many farmers work hard to protect the environment, agriculture is our biggest source of water pollution, and a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions. Concentration is also increasing systemic risks. A more sustainable food system is possible, but real change will require a new way of looking at problems that affect all of us.

In this invited paper, Toward a Sustainable Food System, career Wisconsin experts James Matson and Jim VandenBrook assess critical farm conservation challenges and offer a new way forward. The opinions and recommendations expressed by the authors are theirs alone. Wisconsin’s Green Fire looks forward to continued dialogue on the changes needed to ensure an environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable food system.