Cargill encourages thoughtful discussion about how to sustainably feed a planet of 7 billion people. We believe access to food is a basic right. The United Nations estimates that more than 1 billion people don’t have enough access to food – and that the number has increased with the global recession. That’s why we help local farmers increase their productivity, promote investment in local agriculture, and support organizations that protect the environment and fight hunger.
We’d also like to share our point of view on some of the issues being raised by Occupy Our Food Supply.
- Control of the food supply: That’s not possible for any company. Food supplies are controlled by weather, global demand and the actions of governments around the world. Enough food is grown to feed everyone on the planet. The problem is getting it to the people who need it.
- Cargill’s role in the food supply: Local farmers supply the world with its food. For example, in the U.S. alone there are 750,000 cattle farmers. While some butcher their own beef to sell at a farmers market, others rely on companies like Cargill to turn it steaks and hamburger for the grocery store. (Watch this video from the Oprah Show.) Grain is grown by millions of local farmers. They rely on companies like Cargill to ship it to where it’s needed. We also buy grain for our mills, where we make products like flour. We don’t control the meat supply, and we don’t control grain markets.
- The environment: Because Cargill relies on farmers, protecting the earth’s resources is critical to us. We partner with organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund and Flora & Fauna International to protect forests and orangutan habitat. At our own facilities, we collect rainwater and use recycled water, run boilers with sawdust and sunflower seeds and turn manure into electricity.
- Small farmers: Cargill depends on farmers. They’re our suppliers. We buy from farms of all sizes, including small ones. In the U.S., the average cattle farmer has a herd of only 42. In West and Central Africa, where we buy cocoa beans, most farmers tend only one or two hectares of land. We provide free training, build schools and offer financing to farmers in many places around the world, because what’s good for farmers is good for Cargill.
- Palm oil: We are proud to be the first company working on a 100-percent-sustainable supply chain. Our plantation in Indonesia that the Rainforest Action Network visited was one of the first to be certified sustainable in 2009. The certification of our other plantation is under way, and we invited RAN to be part of that process. We helped 8,800 small farmers we buy from get certified. Our refineries have been certified, and we’ve been supplying certified oil since 2010.
- Human rights: The Rainforest Action Network has visited our PT Hindoli palm oil plantation in Indonesia, as have other NGOs. RAN knows we pay our workers fairly, built schools for workers’ children and pay the teachers, and built medical clinics and provide free care for our workers’ families. RAN has no basis for accusing Cargill of violating human rights.
- Sustainable food: Cargill trains farmers to grow food sustainably, which not only helps the environment – it also helps farmers make more money. In Africa, we paid 26,000 farmers an extra $2.2 million last year for their certified sustainable cocoa beans. In Indonesia, we helped 8,800 small farmers get certified for their sustainable palm fruit. In Brazil, we work with the Nature Conservancy to teach farmers how to grow soybeans more sustainably, and we support efforts to develop a certification for sustainable soy.
- Local food: Local farmers markets, buying directly from local farmers and backyard gardens are all valuable ways to get food. In fact, 85 percent of the world’s food is consumed in the country where it’s grown. But not all food grows in all conditions. A wheat farmer in the U.S., for example, needs to be able to export his crop so other people can have bread. A cocoa bean farmer in Africa needs to sell his crop around the world so other people can have chocolate. Cargill helps farmers ship crops from where they grow to where they’re needed.
- Organic food: Cargill has no reason to oppose organic food. In fact, we make organic chocolate and organic syrup as well as supplying ingredients for organic foods such as yogurt
- Food prices: The commodity price spikes in recent years have been caused by extreme weather and poor harvests in some of the world’s largest growing areas – China, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Indonesia – combined with political instability in other areas and high oil prices that made it more expensive to plant, harvest and transport crops.
- Free trade: Cargill is in favor of free trade so food can get from places where it grows in abundance to places where it doesn’t. Our support of free trade doesn’t mean a lack of regulation. In fact, well-regulated markets are a benefit.
- Corporate “personhood”: Cargill doesn’t claim to be a “person,” and the court ruling allowing corporations to donate unlimited money in federal elections through Super PACS hasn’t changed anything for our company. We don’t give money to Super PACs, nor does Cargill contribute to the political parties. We didn’t before the Citizens United ruling. We don’t now. Our employees can contribute to individual candidates through a PAC if they wish, but are subject to regular election laws limiting them to $5,000 a year. The names and amounts are all public record.