The USDA Monday unveiled a first-ever report on the agency's involvement in expanding agroforestry practices on U.S. farms, ranches and woodlands.
The report, which weighed USDA investments against rewards of the agroforestry management approach, explained that over the last five years, USDA has assisted landowners in establishing roughly 336,000 acres of windbreaks, riparian forest buffers and alley cropping; about 2,000 acres of silvopasture; and about 500 acres of forest farming.
Those acres represent less than 1% of the potentially suitable land for applying those practices, suggesting there is an opportunity to significantly expand the application of agroforestry in the United States, USDA said.
The benefits of the agroforestry approach include greenhouse gas emission reductions and improved resiliency among agricultural lands, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack explained.
"USDA has invested less than one percent of its budget into tree-based practices," Vilsack explained, noting the benefits of investment. "However, much work remains to promote and sustain agroforestry practices, which have great potential to promote economic growth and job creation in rural communities," he added.
The approach can also benefit suburban areas, he said.
"In suburban areas, agroforestry practices can improve wildlife habitat, mitigate the movement of odors and dust, serve as noise barriers and act as filters that help keep water clean," he explained.
With the release of this report on agroforestry, USDA said it wants to start a national conversation about agroforestry with producers, landowners, communities and young people.
"Our goal is and always has been to help landowners understand that trees and other permanent vegetation planted in the right place for the right reason, will add value to their lands," said Wayne Honeycutt, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Deputy Chief for Science and Technology.
"Through the report, we are able to show landowner successes. In some cases, family farms have been saved and woodlands spared from development. We hope by showing these stories, more landowners will see the potential for their operations."
To access the report, visit www.usda.gov/agroforestry.