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The term LISA was coined in 1988 as an acronym to identify a federally funded research and education program designed to address the public issue of agriculture and the environment (USDA-CSRS, p. 2). LISA is made up of two related, but different, concepts: low input and sustainable agriculture. This combination reflects a compromise between two different perspectives of the environmental issues confronting agriculture.
The low input perspective is that farmers must reduce their use of commercial chemical inputs as a means of reducing environmental and ecological risks. The sustainable agriculture perspective is that long-run productivity and utility of agriculture depend ultimately on our ability to keep farms both ecologically sound and economically viable. Reduced reliance on commercial inputs is seen as one means of addressing the ecological risks that could threaten long-run sustainability.
United States agriculture is at a crossroads. The current financial crisis in agriculture eventually will force the farm sector to follow one of two general directions for the future. One of those courses is to retreat from reliance on export markets, the loss of which triggered the current farm financial crisis, and to return to greater reliance on domestic demand. The other course is to return to a world market orientation, regain export markets lost during the 1980s, and develop and exploit a growing world demand for agricultural commodities. Each of these alternatives implies a different future for United States agriculture and a different future for the Agricultural Economics profession.
Interregional trade and associated price differences between regions has been the subject of extensive economic analysis. Trade patterns reflect intraregional supply and demand conditions and transfer cost among regions. Once patterns of trade are established, price differences among regions simply reflect transfer cost from exporting to importing regions. But, patterns of trade do not necessarily remain stable over time.
The Risk-Rating Model is designed to give extension specialists, teachers, and producers a method to analyze production, marketing, and financial risks. These risks may be analyzed either individually or simultaneously. The risk associated with each enterprise, for all combinations of enterprises, and for any combination of marketing strategies is estimated. Optimistic, expected, and pessimistic returns above variable cost and/or total cost are presented in the results. The probability that total return will be equal to or greater than variable cost and/or total cost is also estimated.
Research serves different purposes for scientists and for farmers, and the two groups evaluate research results differently. Scientists are mainly concerned about the chance that they have reached an incorrect conclusion, while farmers are mainly concerned about the chunce they will make an incorrect decision based on the results. Research conducted by farmers on their own farms can be more directly applicable to other farmers' conditions than experiment station research, and therefore can reduce the risk of an incorrect decision.
U.S. farmers are faced with growing environmental concerns and rising costs associated with highly specialized farming operations. They are searching for farming systems that are both ecologically sound and economically viable. They are searching for sustainable systems of farming.
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