Agricultural and forestry projects require special considerations to ensure successful outcomes. The USDA Agroforestry Executive Steering Committee is a high-level steering committee that coordinates and helps set priorities for the implementation of the Strategic Framework across the USDA. Most USDA agencies have at least one branch, office, program, or project related to agroforestry. Examples of management activities include harvesting and spreading local seeds; eliminating competing plants; and further preparing the site for planting. Periodic agricultural and climate disasters, such as the Dust Bowl era in the 1930s and Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, have led to renewed attention being paid to agroforestry techniques in certain regions of the country.
After the Dust Bowl, windbreaks and safety belts became more common in the central United States. Therefore, USDA conservation programs have promoted and supported linear agroforestry practices of windbreaks, safety belts and shock absorbers in riverside forests, and USDA-supported scientists have been researching these techniques for many decades. Agriculture has changed dramatically since the end of World War II. Food and fiber productivity has skyrocketed due to new technologies, mechanization, increased use of chemicals, specialization and government policies that favored maximizing production and reducing food prices. These changes have allowed fewer farmers to produce more food and fiber at lower prices.
However, these advances have had significant costs including soil depletion, groundwater pollution, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, decline of family farms, abandonment of agricultural workers' living and working conditions, new threats to human health and safety due to spread of new pathogens, economic concentration in food and agricultural industries, and disintegration of rural communities. In response to these costs, a movement has emerged over the past four decades to question the need for these high costs and offer innovative alternatives. This movement for sustainable agriculture is increasingly being supported and accepted in our food production systems. Sustainable agriculture integrates three main objectives: environmental health, economic profitability and social equity. A variety of philosophies, policies and practices have contributed to these objectives. Land use differs from land cover in that some uses are not always physically obvious (e.g.
crop rotation). Therefore, when working on an agricultural or forestry project it is important to consider all aspects of land use including soil fertility management; water management; pest control; crop rotation; conservation tillage; integrated pest management; cover crops; crop diversification; agroforestry; organic farming; integrated crop-livestock systems; conservation buffers; wildlife habitat enhancement; energy conservation; nutrient management; irrigation management; soil erosion control; water quality protection; waste management; and other sustainable practices.