The development of effective agricultural monitoring networks is essential to track, anticipate and manage changes in the social, economic and environmental aspects of agriculture. We welcome the perspective of Lindenmayer and Likens (J. Environ. Monit., 2011, 13, 1559) as published in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring on our earlier paper, "Monitoring the World's Agriculture" (Sachs et al., Nature, 2010, 466, 558-560). In this response, we address their three main critiques labeled as 'the passive approach', 'the problem with uniform metrics' and 'the problem with composite metrics'. We expand on specific research questions at the core of the network design, on the distinction between key universal and site-specific metrics to detect change over time and across scales, and on the need for composite metrics in decision-making. We believe that simultaneously measuring indicators of the three pillars of sustainability (environmentally sound, social responsible and economically viable) in an effectively integrated monitoring system will ultimately allow scientists and land managers alike to find solutions to the most pressing problems facing global food security.