Farming decisions are often heavily influenced by markets. Could markets that reward farmers for sustainable decisions be viable? This is the focus of some of the work being done by Alisha Bower of Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) in Ames, Iowa. Alisha is the strategic initiatives manager at PFI where she manages farmer programs that test models where food and beverage companies invest in on-farm use of cover crops and small grains in crop rotations in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Alisha shared her work and observations with graduate students during sustainable agriculture colloquium.
Alisha recognized that there is some excellent work being done to make agriculture in the Cornbelt more sustainable, but the focus needs to be expanded. "Cover crops are a good first step, but we need more." She discussed that one such strategy would be to build markets that incentivize behavior shifts in sustainability. The focus of the talk was on how to help develop incentives for producers of the two most prevalent row crops, corn and soy, to implement measures such as cover crops. However, she also discussed how the integration of small grains could also go a long way to help achieve environmental and market goals. There is a lot of potential to expand and develop these markets which PFI is working on in order to make sustainable agriculture viable across not only Iowa, but the entire Cornbelt.