Farm to Fork
More processors talk farming; connect regenerative agriculture to ingredients.
Whether they were connected to corporate social responsibility or the anniversary of Earth Day, this winter and spring brought a host of manufacturer statements in support of “regenerative agriculture.”
The Carbon Underground and Regenerative Agriculture Initiative define regenerative agriculture as farming and grazing practices that—among other benefits—reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity. This results in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.
Among those companies recently talking about regenerative agriculture were Nature’s Path Organic Foods, Richmond, B.C., Danone North America and General Mills.
Nature’s Path, a family-owned organic breakfast and snack food company, marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day by launching a limited-edition Regenerative Organic Certified Instant Oatmeal.
“We can choose to continue as we were, or our recovery can build a more just and sustainable society,” said Arran Stephens, Nature’s Path founder and chairman. “At Nature’s Path, we believe changing the way we grow our food can change the world. We’re celebrating this Earth Day at the breakfast table, launching a limited-edition product that brings to life our vision for the future of organic farming—one with climate action at its heart.”
Stephens, an organic industry figure for more than 53 years, said now is the time for other companies to follow suit and implement more environmentally-friendly farming solutions. Nature’s Path belongs to The Regenerative Organic Alliance (www.regenorganic.org) along with such companies as Harmless Harvest, Happy Family, New Barn, Patagonia Provisions, Justins, Numi Organic Tea and Vega.
Danone North America
Danone North America, in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), announced a multi-year agreement aimed at improving the economic resiliency and soil health of farms, including those within the supply chain of the company. The new public-private partnership will leverage state and federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for soil health. The commitment is in addition to Danone North America’s previously announced investment of up to $6 million in soil health research over the next four years.
By unlocking available public funding from NFWF and NRCS—via a new concept in matching investment proposed by Danone North America—farmers now have more access to seeds and incentives to plant cover crops, which is critically important for nutrient balancing and overall soil health.
Danone North America will begin working with farmers in Kansas and Ohio before expanding to other states named in the application for NRCS funding, which include key dairy sheds: IN, MI, OH, NY, PA, TX, NM, KS, NE, ID and UT. The company is working with NFWF to develop an application process to leverage the $3 million of USDA funding to expand its soil health program with farmers. The grants are in effect “in escrow” and will be dispersed directly to farmers based on specific criteria — for example, agreeing to implement certain land management activities such as cover crops.
“Soil is the foundation of our food system, with an estimated 95% of food directly or indirectly reliant on soil,” said Tina Owens, senior director of agriculture, Danone North America. “As America’s largest maker of organic and plant-based foods, as well as yogurt, we saw an opportunity to initiate this breakthrough collaboration to benefit the farms on which we rely to make great food.”
General Mills released its 2020 Global Responsibility Report, highlighting progress made on the company’s long-term global commitments. The annual update, which marks 50 years of reporting for the company, outlines significant progress against and investments in four priority areas: Food, Planet, People and Community.
“We are in the food business,” said Jeff Harmening, chairman and CEO, General Mills. “And taking care of the land that sustains us all requires that we act as a force for good for our planet. That is why, for more than 50 years, we’ve reported our global responsibility results and progress.”
In 2019, General Mills and its Foundation committed to advance regenerative farming on one million acres of farmland, enabled 5.5 billion meals around the world through philanthropic partners and food donations, and invested in efforts that have collectively helped improve the lives of more than 22,000 smallholder farmers and their families.
“Our global presence allows General Mills to create real impact, at every level,” said Mary Jane Melendez, chief sustainability and social impact officer, General Mills. “We are committed to using our scale where it matters most. For us, that means advancing regenerative agriculture, supporting farmers across our value chain and accelerating our ongoing efforts to end hunger and reduce food waste.”
Officials say one of General Mills’ goals is to reduce greenhouse emissions across its full value chain by 28% by 2025. In 2019, the company announced plans to advance regenerative farming practices on one million acres of farmland by 2030. An estimated 80% of greenhouse gases in the food system come from agriculture, but regenerative techniques help counter their impact by pulling carbon from the air and storing it in soil. These methods also serve to enhance natural resources and farming communities.
Officials noted that General Mills hit a milestone of sustainably sourcing more than 90% of the company’s 10 most priority ingredients, with a goal of reaching 100 percent by the end of 2020.