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Perspectives: Agriculture is How

By Jill Kolling, Vice President of Global Sustainability, Cargill | October 21, 2019

Those of us who work in food and agriculture get to see the positive impact our industry makes every day. It’s a simple fact that agriculture – and the farmers, ranchers and growers who are at the heart of it – feeds the world.

We also know our industry isn’t perfect, and sometimes, it is misunderstood. We have critical work ahead of us to make food and ag increasingly safe and sustainable. And, we need to come together to address challenges within the complex supply chains that move food from farms to our forks.

But with challenges, come opportunities. And at Cargill, that’s how we look at agriculture – as an opportunity. Because we know agriculture is how we’ll ensure a safe, responsible and sustainable food system; a food system that cultivates a better future for all of us.

So what does this look like in a practical sense?

It starts with farmers.

Farmers are the original stewards of our land and water. And today, we have new information and technologies that can make their operations more efficient and sustainable.

Take for example soil health. There is great opportunity for soil to hold more carbon and release less into the atmosphere. That’s why we’re partnering with farmers to adopt conservation techniques like reduced tillage, cover crops and nutrient optimization.

These practices also offer long-term benefits for farmers. Put simply, healthier soils grow healthier, more abundant crops. This means higher yields using fewer inputs, and a better overall return on their time and financial investment.

It’s important to acknowledge that new practices can take a few years to perfect. As an industry, we need to help farmers through the early phases of adoption, when their yields may be temporarily reduced or their costs increased.

Technology, tools and training are key enablers.

Technology is contributing to unprecedented changes in agriculture, food and nutrition – including increased traceability and improved application of sustainability practices.

Now, imagine if everyone had access to the tools, technology and training that could help them make better decisions for their business and the planet. Unfortunately, for farmers in some parts of the world, this access has lagged. That’s why partnerships, like the one Cargill has with International Finance Corporation are so critical.

Through our Coop Academy 2.0 program we are empowering cocoa producing cooperatives to improve sustainability while also increasing profitability. The program includes access to a digital payments platform, and a tool that measures and benchmarks the coops’ operations, sustainability, financial and internal management.

This type of technology can lead to better outcomes for farmers and the planet. And, it helps companies like Cargill strengthen the transparency of our own supply chains – something our customers and consumers expect from us.

Collaboration is critical.

Agriculture is how we’ll come together to address global issues – including climate change, deforestation, water conservation, and more. But our company, and our industry, can’t do it alone. It will require continued partnership and collaboration.

Cargill’s commitment to end deforestation is being questioned. We’re listening, but more importantly, we’re taking action.

To accelerate progress across our priority supply chains, we’ve formed a Land Use and Forest Protection Advisory Panel. Members are bringing cross-sector insights to Cargill, building on existing work with other trusted advisors and thought leaders.

We are also advancing our $30-million pledge, which focuses on sourcing and supporting innovative ideas to protect forests and native vegetation in South America. We will soon announce a startup accelerator to find solutions to the deforestation challenges in Brazil. And, we continue to seek partners from across the industry to join us in this effort.

Together, we can create a socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable food system that works for everyone.

Agriculture is how we’ll get it done.