Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
I recently read an article about the meaning of sustainable as it pertains to agriculture, and it reminded me of interview I did in the 1980s. The reporter asked me "What is your thought of sustainable agriculture?" My reply was "all farming needs to be sustainable", and I went on to explain that a farm is a business, and that farmers are business people, and that farming will "keep on without intermission" (World Book Dictionary). I stressed that those who run the business need to make a profit, or the banker will not continue to loan the business operating money if the business cannot pay back the loan.
I was not trying to be smart when I said "all farming needs to be sustainable." As a Farm Business Management Instructor, I see that if a farm has higher costs per acre/cow/hog than they have income, that farm can only produce milk, grain or meat as long as their source of operating money lasts.
The Northwest Minnesota Farm Business Management report was recently released, and to no surprise it was a good year for most operators. I did notice that the low 20% operators had some big losses. Losses cannot be sustainable and allow the farm business to continue. Every aspect of any business must be reviewed to maximize profits. The Farm Business Analysis will do that for your farm business.
My more recent definition of sustainable agriculture is, "Agriculture is sustainable as long as the income is more than the expense, be it organic, low input, or conventional farming". So just by putting the name sustainable in front of farming does not automatically guarantee your business will be around in the years to come.