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Fight Grows to Keep the 'Sustainable' in Sustainable Agriculture in NC

Current language in the state's Farm Act includes what some call an overly broad definition of sustainable agriculture. Credit: AcrylicArtist/morguefile.com
Current language in the state's Farm Act includes what some call an overly broad definition of sustainable agriculture. Credit: AcrylicArtist/morguefile.com
September 24, 2015

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Sustainable is high on the list of 21st century buzzwords, with increased interest among consumers in the environment and how they relate to it.

Hundreds of businesses and farms in North Carolina have developed in recent years to meet that demand.

But language in the Farm Act (SB 513) currently up for debate in the State Assembly could broaden the definition of sustainable agriculture to include farms that some, including Rochelle Sparko, policy director at the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, argue do not meet expectations of what sustainable means.

"We have a lot of hard working, smaller-scale farmers in the state who have done the hard work by building trust by being transparent about their practices with their consumers and consumers now understand sustainable agriculture to mean something," Sparko states.

Today the House is expected to vote on a version of the act, but before the vote, Rep. John Ager, a Buncombe County Democrat, is expected to introduce an amendment that would remove the broad definition of sustainable agriculture from its language.

The Senate voted on a different version of the act earlier this year.

Supporters of the broad definition say it opens up additional opportunities with larger retailers for farmers.

Sparko says larger, factory farms are recognizing the opportunity sustainable living offers their bottom line, and are trying to unfairly profit from it.

"The reason I would imagine why they're doing that is because there is so much interest in the trust and transparency that the other farmers have built up, and they want to find a way to capitalize on that because it's created market share," she states.

Sparko adds that a true definition of sustainable agriculture should involve the production of food, fiber or other plant or animal products using farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, communities and animal welfare.


Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC