Gourmet via truthout:
"He and others call the new approach "multifunctionality." It is an idea that has been hidden and underfunded in different titles and sections of federal farm policy for more than a decade but has never been promoted as a unifying principle. Most farmers, including Matthew Stiegelmeier, have never heard of it.
Under current federal policy, farmers receive "direct payments" each year, no matter what crops they grow or how they grow them. A multifunctional approach would build on and rechannel those payments, along with other crop-support subsidies, toward sustainable social and conservation goals. "Instead of tying payments to crops and yields, we should tie them to the services that farmers provide for the public." In the past, "public services" has meant cheap food at the supermarket, but Dobbs believes it is time to rethink the whole idea. "Pay farmers to reduce synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Pay them to enhance wildlife, diversify their crops, build soil, and restore wetlands. Pay them to develop local markets for their products, especially fresh food."
Dobbs is skeptical about the ethanol boom. "I just don't think it is an economically viable approach to our energy problems." And he is suspicious as well of the long-term impact of converting thousands of acres of marginal land to the production of energy crops. "We may end up undoing decades of good conservation work if farmers are encouraged to take land out of uses that enhance conservation and put it into ethanol crops." But in theory, he believes that using farms to support wind, solar, and other alternative-energy programs is well within the framework of multifunctionality. Those are the carrots."