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Economically Driven Change

A key point to remember is that our goal is to provide farmers with crops and agricultural practices which they will want to adopt for economic reasons. If a particular crop or practice is "good for the environment" but brings no economic benefits to the farmers, relatively few farmers will change their habits and equipment.

Agriculture can make major changes—if it is economically profitable

While farmers are constantly assumed to be conservative about changing their crops, history clearly records that they respond to market forces. Witness the fact that in 1930, for all practical purposes, there was no one growing soybeans in the New World. Because soybeans proved profitable, however, many farmers have learned to plant and grow them, and millions of acres of soybeans are planted each year throughout North and South America.

The woody crops we are developing have the potential to be more profitable than soybeans, particularly during the early years. This is because strong markets for the raw nuts already exist; we do not have to create demand for an unknown crop. This presents the real likelihood that large plantings will be made, extending the environmental benefits of the Woody Agriculture practices to large areas. With foresight, as the plantings expand and traditional markets are saturated, new products and markets can be developed—exactly as was done for soybeans—allowing plantings to expand much further.

In the event that this scenario of a large-scale, economically driven shift to an ecologically sounder form of agriculture can be accomplished, some of the benefits will be those outlined in the following sections.