Skip to main content


The U.S. Department of Agriculture is committed to working with partners and stakeholders toward the sustainability of diverse agricultural and food systems, where the sustainability of a system is judged by its success in advancing objectives related to the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainability. These objectives include providing safe and nutritious food for all; providing decent incomes and wages for farmers and those working across the system; and conserving natural resources for the benefit of current and future populations.

Sustainable agricultural productivity growth is a foundational element in building more sustainable agricultural and food systems. Without it, our ability to meet current and future food needs, conserve natural resources, and support the long-term viability of agriculture is endangered.

Sustainability Spotlight: Agricultural production and deforestation

The world lost 6.8 million hectares of forest in 2021—an area larger than the state of West Virginia (see Forest Declaration Assessment: Are we on track for 2030?). Deforestation threatens biodiversity, soils, water, and other ecosystem functions; increases the risk of transmitting zoonotic diseases; and impacts communities and livelihoods. It also is a major contributor to climate change. Almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from the agriculture, forests, and other land use sectors with tropical deforestation contributing around eight percent of global GHG emissions (see IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land).

The primary direct driver of global deforestation is the conversion of land to produce major agricultural commodities. Estimates of the portion of global deforestation attributable to agricultural commodity production vary from about 30 to 90 percent. For more information about deforestation associated with agricultural commodity production (see Combatting International Deforestation Associated with Agricultural Commodity Production).

While recent earth observation and survey data assessments indicate that agricultural production in the United States is not driving deforestation (see the recent USDA assessment of agriculture-driven deforestation in the United States (PDF, 198 KB)), the United States remains committed to global goals to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030 and restore critical ecosystems, as reflected in President Biden’s 2021 Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad and the resulting Biden-Harris Administration’s Plan to Conserve Global Forests: Critical Carbon Sinks.

Domestically, USDA is committed to advancing the sustainable management of forests through science, programming, and policy, supporting carbon sequestration, climate resilience, and biodiversity. Since 2010, forest carbon stocks in the United States have increased by nearly 2,000 MMT C. President Biden’s Earth Day 2022 Executive Order on Strengthening the Nation's Forests, Communities, and Local Economies bolsters domestic efforts with objectives aimed at safeguarding mature and old-growth forests on federal lands, strengthening reforestation partnerships across the country, combating global deforestation and deploying nature-based solutions to address the climate crisis.

For information on joining with others to advance sustainable agricultural productivity growth, see the Coalition on Sustainable Productivity Growth for Food Security and Resource Conservation (the SPG Coalition).

At USDA, the advancement of more sustainable agricultural and food systems, including through sustainable productivity growth, is supported by holistic, science-based, data-driven decision-making and innovative solutions. Critical elements of this approach include: