Growing Returns

Selected tag(s): United Suppliers

More reasons to embrace food sustainability

farm

Credit: Flickr user Ruben Holthuijsen

There is no shortage of news about the contamination of drinking water sources caused by fertilizer run-off from agriculture. And there is no shortage of regulatory responses to these events: Ohio and Michigan’s commitment to reduce phosphorus levels in Lake Erie by 40 percent; the nitrate lawsuit in Des Moines, Iowa, and Monday’s ruling on the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to enforce total maximum daily load specifications for the Chesapeake Bay.

In addition, food companies wanting to source sustainably grown grains to meet that consumer demand and reduce their own supply chain risks are sending the same signal, further shining the spotlight on the growing demand for improved environmental outcomes from how we produce food.

If farmers can help meet these demands by being increasingly efficient with nutrients and protecting their soils, they will see nearer term benefits and possibly stem future regulations. Here’s why:

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SUSTAIN: navigating the boom in precision ag

There’s new proof that precision agriculture is on the rise.

Earlier this month, CropLife magazine and Purdue University released a survey that found more than 85 percent of agricultural retailers plan on investing in precision agriculture services in the next year. And more than 15 percent of the 2,000 retailers surveyed will invest over $100,000.

This is good news for increasing fertilizer efficiency, because precision technologies can go a long way toward helping farmers know when and where to apply fertilizer. Applying fertilizer when, where, and in the amounts it’s needed can help save on input costs and reduce the environmental impacts that occur when excess nitrogen runs off into nearby waters or is released into the air.

But there’s a caveat – with so many precision agriculture tools available today and even more coming to market on a regular basis, how is a farmer to know what is best? Growers need to have confidence that precision ag tools will help them optimize their fertilizer use, improve their farm’s sustainability, and protect their yields. Read More »

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Campbell’s Soup expands its fertilizer optimization programs

220px-Campbell_Soup_Company_logo.svgThere’s a new reason to celebrate your favorite sugar cookie. The Campbell Soup Company has committed to fertilizer optimization in its sourcing areas in Ohio and Nebraska. These areas provide wheat for Campbell’s subsidiary, Pepperidge Farm – and the company will enroll an additional 70,000 acres into its fertilizer optimization programs by 2020.

Campbell will work with EDF to create additional fertilizer optimization and soil conservation programs for farmers, and will deploy United Suppliers’ SUSTAIN platform in these sourcing areas to help ensure farmers that changing their practices will not only reduce nitrogen runoff, but also protect yields and farm income. Read More »

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USDA’s new climate strategy is a huge step in the right direction

Credit: Flickr user Nicholas A. Tonelli

Credit: Flickr user Nicholas A. Tonelli

The U.S. Department of Agriculture just announced a new national climate strategy aimed at reducing emissions from the agriculture and forestry sectors. USDA will partner with farmers and ranchers on voluntary and incentive-based approaches to implement climate-smart agriculture techniques and programs. This approach will also ensure that crops are resilient to increasing fluctuations in weather and climates, and that farmers’ livelihoods are protected.

The new focus on ‘cooperative conservation’ is a huge step in the right direction.

America’s farmers face a challenge: increase productivity to feed a growing population, but do so in an era where climate is becoming increasingly unpredictable, with warmer growing seasons, droughts, and floods. Farmers are also called upon to increase production in a way that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. This is a tall order, given that if we continue with current farming practices agriculture could be responsible for 70 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Read More »

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Three reasons fertilizer retailers should promote nitrogen efficiency

14980820705_b8d28549c9_nAt first, the idea that fertilizer companies should help farmers become more efficient with fertilizer use is counterintuitive. After all, fertilizer retailers are in business to make money, so it makes sense that they would want to maximize sales of their core product.

Fortunately, using fertilizer more efficiently – even if this means less in some cases — can create more profit for retailers and growers. Fertilizer retailers have good reasons to incorporate fertilizer efficiency in their business strategies. Read More »

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Farmers know: You can’t manage what you don’t measure

Adapt-NIt is no surprise that information has value in the technology age. A recent article in the New York Times spotlights an Indiana farming family to show how information is shaping 21st century agriculture.

Kip Tom, a seventh-generation farmer, is riding the wave of agricultural consolidation that, since the 1980s, has led to bigger farms, bigger technology, and now, bigger data.

Bigger revenues have come along with this transition. Tom says better data analysis has raised his return on investment over seven percent – from 14 percent to 21.2 percent.

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General Mills selects United Suppliers to increase fertilizer efficiency in the field  

SUSTAIN logo_circle_4cIsn’t it nice when somebody steps forward boldly to do the right thing and is rewarded for doing so? General Mills did just that for United Suppliers and the SUSTAIN platform, which will help farmers improve nitrogen use efficiency and productivity.

In July, General Mills put out a call for proposals to help the company meet increased production needs in ways that contribute to cleaner air and water.

It was almost like a future posting in sustainability want ads: “General Mills, a 17+ billion dollar food company, has the following need: Seeking best practices in nitrogen fertilization (nitrogen optimization) technologies for sustainable agriculture.”

The company recognized the pressing need to limit nutrient losses while also helping farmers produce more of the wheat, corn, soybeans and other crops it needs to make the products we buy.

And the winners are….
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A national food policy? What the Bittman-Pollan op-ed missed

EDF's David Festa (left) met with farmers in two Yuma area irrigation districts this fall to learn more about irrigation efficiency.

EDF’s David Festa (left) met with farmers in two Yuma area irrigation districts this fall to learn more about irrigation efficiency.

Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan have done a huge service with their writing by shining the spotlight on the way we produce and consume what’s on our plate. Together, the two have elevated the national dialogue on food. As they correctly point out in their recent Washington Post op-ed, the food industry touches everything from our health to the environment.

Agriculture sustains us. But agriculture also emits more greenhouse gases than all our cars, trucks, airplanes and trains combined. It consumes more than 80 percent of the world’s fresh water supply and pollutes rivers with fertilizer runoff that creates dead zones downstream. When we clear grasslands and forests to produce more food, we accelerate the loss of biodiversity. And yes, our diets have contributed to a rise in obesity.

The challenge is clear. We need to feed a growing population, but how do we do it without killing the planet in the process?

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How one business is reducing nutrient losses on 10 million acres

Logo_United_Suppliers_Lincoln_Nebraska-620x192The people over at United Suppliers are savvy. When they caught wind of Walmart’s pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by, in part, asking its top suppliers to reduce fertilizer losses from cropping systems, they jumped at the chance to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

“For us, it was a no brainer,” says Matt Carstens, United Suppliers vice president. “If Walmart and major food companies have identified fertilizer pollution as a business risk, it makes sense for us to help them address that risk. We want to be at the forefront of helping farmers meet these demands. It’s a great business opportunity, not to mention the right thing to do.

“After all, farmers want the same thing. Reduced losses translate to increased profits and greater sustainability.”

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