General Mills says it will begin partnering with farmers and suppliers in its key growing regions – to the tune of a million acres of farmland by 2030 – to drive the adoption of farming practices that protect and intentionally enhance natural resources. Such “regenerative agriculture” practices focus on pulling carbon from the air and storing it in the soil, as well as other practices that help the land be more resilient to extreme weather events.
The food manufacturing giant will begin with on-farm training and education, via non-profit Kiss the Ground, for North American growers and suppliers of oats, the company says. With a $650,000 investment from General Mills, Kiss the Ground will offer “Soil Health Academies,” where growers will learn how to increase farm profitability, build resiliency into the land, and decrease costs through soil health best practices. In coming months, the company will also offer training to suppliers of wheat, corn, dairy feed and sugar beets.
By investing in regenerative agriculture, General Mills is improving its resilience in terms of unpredictable weather, and reducing overall risk in its supply chain. The 150-year-old company needs a strong planet “to enable us to feed families for the next 150 years,” says chairman and CEO Jeff Harmening. The company believes that, in addition to improved environmental outcomes, regenerative practices lead to improved economic outcomes. In recent years, the company has taken several steps to draw on materials from sustainable sources, including working with the palm oil, fiber packaging, and sugarcane industries to improve best practices.
Other efforts include:
- Development of The Soil Health Roadmap in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, which outlines key steps to achieve widespread adoption of soil health systems on more than 50% of US cropland by 2025. These efforts could deliver $50 billion in societal benefits annually, the company says;
- Development of a Regenerative Agriculture Self-Assessment tool to help farmers understand how their practices influence soil health, biodiversity and economic resilience;
- A strategic sourcing agreement with Gunsmoke Farms LLC to convert 34,000 acres of conventional farmland in South Dakota to certified organic acreage, using regenerative agriculture practices, by 2020.
The global food system accounts for roughly one-third of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of water consumption. Efforts to improve soil health and enrich biodiversity are critical to addressing climate change and other environmental challenges, according to Larry Clemens, North America Region agriculture director for The Nature Conservancy.
Interested in learning more about the business case for sustainable agriculture? Join us at the 4th Annual Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference, taking place May 13 – 15, 2019, in Denver. Learn more here.