The Environmental Challenge
Societal choices made in our country’s food and agriculture systems have radically altered ecosystems across Midwestern landscapes, eliminating space and habitat for native species, reducing soil health, and polluting water as far away as the Gulf of Mexico.
Through voluntary actions by land owners, government funded conservation programs, and protection of public lands, some ecologically sensitive areas have been maintained or restored, particularly along streams and rivers where native vegetation provides wildlife habitat and reduces run-off from farm fields. In the fields, many farmers are using soil conservation practices to improve soil health and further reduce transfer of soil and nutrients to streams and groundwater.
Water quality in the Midwest has improved, but not enough. Regulatory pressure on agriculture is increasing, most immediately for clean water. In the coming decades, agriculture may be asked to provide more ecological services to help reduce the global causes and local impacts of our changing climate.