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The potential implications of these measures
The above recommendations would bring about important changes in the relative share and orientation of the main production systems. Some trends and changes in focus are to be expected.
The grazing systems would remain a source of extensively produced animal products. However, these systems can intensify production, especially in the higher potential areas, by incorporating new technologies. This can be facilitated by stronger organizations. They can also intensify by diversifying, opening up other uses for these grazing systems (tourism, etc.). In these systems, livestock's role, in addition to providing a livelihood to pastoral people and market production, is to protect the natural resource base, in particular land and biodiversity. In future, with growing pressures on natural resources, there is little scope for protecting the environment in its own right. In one way or another, the chances of preserving the environment are best where largely intact natural ecosystems provide a diversified basket of current or future goods and services for which there is effective demand and cost and benefit sharing. This will only happen if all those involved in the decision-making and use of those resources develop from single commodity producers (beef, tourism) to stewards of this diversified resource. The future of this resource will depend on its caretakers and stewards.
Mixed farming systems will see continued intensification and important growth. Most growth will come from a better spatial distribution of industrial production units in a "regional mixed farm" whereby the nutrient inputs and outputs are in balance with the carrying capacity of the land. However, smallholder and family mixed farming will remain predominant for some time to come, with livestock production driven by byproducts and surplus products of crop agriculture. Important productivity gains will be achieved by further enhancing nutrient and energy cycles between the two components. The environmental and economic stability that this system provides make it the prime focus for continuing technology generation, transfer and expansion. Livestock's role, in addition to production, is to enhance and substitute natural resources.
In the industrial systems, the internalization of environmental costs would mean that production costs would increase, although it is not clear whether that would remove totally the competitive edge that industrial production has over land based production. Approximate calculations show an increase of about 10 percent. However, environmental impact is site-specific and avoidance costs vary considerably. The somewhat higher prices would mean that demand would contract. Higher prices would provide incentives for the land-based systems to intensify. The share of the land-based production systems would grow at the expense of the industrial system, although new technologies and economies of scale for waste treatment might off-set this balance again. This system's purpose must be to produce efficiently at minimal environmental cost.
Ideally, the advanced resource-saving technologies and the absorptive capacities of extended rural areas should be integrated. Thus, the motto for most of the developed world and the densely populated parts of the developing world is: Intensify, but do not concentrate animal production. This study advocates decentralized industrial systems, particularly for pig and poultry production. These would blend resource saving technologies with the absorptive capacities of the surrounding land. These new mixed-industrial systems must be based upon the resource endowments of a region if nutrient balances are to be maintained and the environment's ability to absorb pollutants respected. This is not a nostalgic desire to revive the old mixed farming systems. New organizational arrangements will have to be found to allow specialized units to capitalize on economies of scale. This, to a certain extent, would also allow processing to move into these areas.
The final recommendation: the need for greater impartiality and cooperation
All these changes will be brought about only if policy makers, livestock producers and scientists and environmentalist groups and consumers:
remove the emotional conjecture, lack of objectivity and over-simplification from the debate on livestock-environment relationships;
acknowledge the need to correct unsustainable livestock production systems and act accordingly. In the developing world, where environmental pressure will grow most strongly over the next decades, policy makers must heed the strong warning signs and learn from the errors of the industrialized world;
accept the ample evidence that the contribution of livestock to sustainable development can be greatly enhanced, provided that the appropriate enabling environment is created, and act accordingly;
take full account in future policy planning of the dramatic changes transforming the global livestock sector. The shift towards grain crops for feed use may turn animal production into the single most important agricultural activity on the planet. Selecting the right land and water resources, the efficient generation of feed, transporting feed to farm animals, the conversion of feed into animal protein, the marketing of products as well as the adoption of healthy consumer habits particularly by wealthier individuals, plus the potential synergism between efficient resource use and socioeconomic prospects: all of these factors need to become part of the livestock-environment equation.
Only then can we expect to feed future generations with the type and quality of food they desire without depleting natural resources. This is one of the greatest challenges that the world, and especially all those involved in the livestock sector, is facing.
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