As current anti-immigrant policies diminish the supply of migrant workers, farmers are not able to find the labor they need. So, in states such as Arizona, Idaho, and Washington that grow labor-intensive crops like onions, apples and tomatoes, prison systems have responded by leasing convicts to growers desperate for workers.
As countries develop, demand for meat often rises, increasing the temptation to further expand livestock-grazing areas into new frontiers. But, contrary to many predictions, global pastureland has waned, even in agricultural powerhouses like Brazil and mega-populous countries like China.
“I see circumstances under which it could be useful for short-cutting a process that for traditional breeding might take many plant generations,” says Tom Willey, an organic farmer emeritus from California. The disruption of natural ecosystems is a major challenge to agriculture, Willey told me, and while the problem cannot be wholly addressed by genome editing, it could lend an opportunity to “reach back into genomes of the wild ancestors of crop species to recapture genetic material” that has been lost through millennia of breeding for high yields.
Given the current challenging economic outlook, some might assume that farmers will abandon conservation efforts and focus exclusively on their finances. However, many of the financial best practices cited by farmers and encouraged by farm financial advisers are the very same principles that can help farmers continue to improve environmental outcomes.