Ok, I admit it. The “sustainability” movement in agriculture makes me uncomfortable at times. I bet most seasoned ag folks out there understand what I’m talking about.

The concept of sustainability has been poorly defined and intertwined with organic agriculture, and more recently, the locally grown movement. Nothing against those parts of agriculture, but to me, agricultural sustainability has to be bigger than that.

It’s unfortunate that most of us in the ag business get labeled as for or against sustainability, when no one really even knows what it means.

We have to avoid getting caught up in trying to label specific agricultural practices as either sustainable or not and think in terms of long-term economic stability, rural economic development, improved quality of life and less dependency on inputs like fuel and fertilizer.

The harsh reality of our world is that agriculture has to find a way to feed 8, 9 or even 10 billion people in the near future. Mineral deposits are being depleted, fossil fuels are getting more expensive, urbanization continues to gobble up our best land and soils continue to wash out to sea. We have no choice but to figure this out.

Some people view the popular concept of sustainability as the pie-in-the-sky ideal of well-meaning advocates who don't always see the big picture and sometimes wind up slowing progress toward the real goal. The polarizing debate often distracts from the real issues at hand.