An example is developed to show that the loose ideological definition that describes sustainable agriculture may mask conflicting objectives. A nebulous definition supports wider support but also leads to inefficient use of research and training resources. A popular goal, environmental quality, is defined in terms of measurable objectives: soil erosion, pesticide leaching, pesticide runoff, and excess nitrogen. Restrictions on these environmental pollutants had very different impacts on profits, and sometimes restricting one increased another. Greater success in improving the environment and in research accountability will be realized as supporters set priories for objectives. Economists can provide information that will help to set priories for these objectives.


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