Vilsack, farmers to discuss sustainability, biodiversity

Whitney Sager

Farmers from around the globe are coming to Ames for two reasons: sustainability and biodiversity.

The Global Farmer Town Hall meeting will take place at 10. a.m. Tuesday in the Alliant Energy-Lee Liu Auditorium in Howe Hall.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will present opening remarks for the event and will be on hand to answer questions regarding sustainability and biodiversity.

A panel of farmers will discuss the importance of sustainability in agriculture and share their efforts to promote biodiversity. Experts will also be on hand to provide reasons as to why these topics are important to agriculture.

Alexander Rinkus, project coordinator with CropLife International, said the meeting is a way to let farmers know of the importance of sustainability and biodiversity in agriculture on a global scale.

“We have to live on this planet for a long time to come, so we need to protect it,” Rinkus said.

One of the panelists who will be participating in the discussion is Camila Illich, a Brazilian farmer.

Illich recently graduated from the Federal University of Parana — UFPR —where she studied agronomy.

Along with her father and brother, Illich strives to make her family’s farms, Illich Group, environmentally sustainable.

“From the scarcity of natural resources, added with the uncontrolled growth of world population and the intensity of environmental impacts, it is very important farmers around the world preserve the environment,” Illich said.

Illich said the environmental laws and forest codes of Brazil call for water preservation, biodiversity conservation and native plant protection. If farmers do not follow the laws, they are required to pay a “serious penalty.”

The crops grown on the Illich farms help preserve the land and promote sustainability.

“Today our reforestation area with pinus and eucalyptus is approximately 325 hectares — 800 acres — which is our most important energy source to dry the crops we produce,” Illich said.

Illich Group was recently awarded environmental certification from the SISLEG — System Maintenance or Conservation, Recovery and Protection System of Legal Reserve and Permanent Preservation Areas in Brazil.

In addition to that, Illich Group farms was also awarded the “Eye of Quality Rural” in 2006.

Despite efforts of Illich Group and other farmers around the globe, sustainability is still an issue in global agriculture.

“Sustainable agriculture searches for greater efficiency in production systems that must be compatible and coherent with ecological reality,” Illich said. “It is impossible to know for sure if a certain practice is sustainable or if a certain set of practices constitutes sustainability.”