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Agrimarketing : June 2015
COVER STORY WEIGHING IN ON SUSTAINABLE AG P by Mike Gustafson, Deer’s Landing ut simply, sustainable agriculture means producing more food with fewer resources and less environmental impact, all the while supporting the quality of life for farmers, ranchers and their families. It’s a banner being flown by many consumer groups, retail companies and ag businesses. However, the idea of sustainable agriculture is not new. For example, the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program was established in 1988 and is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and theU.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). SARE grants and education programs promote profitability, stewardship, air and water quality, and quality of life. Sustainable agriculture was also addressed by the U.S. Congress in the 1990 Farm Bill. So if sustainable agriculture has been around for decades, why is there such a focus on it now? It may have come from the perfect storm of reports on, and concerns about environmental pressures on water and air quality, world population growth, world hunger, GMOs, food sourcing and labeling, buying local, food recalls, organics, animal rights and obesity. Consumers are listening, questioning and, acting on these issues. “Consumers are most certainly interested in sustainable agriculture,” notes Mike Vande Logt, Exec VP and COO of WinField Solutions LLC. “I’d venture to say they are demanding it.” WinField, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Land O’Lakes, Inc., is a leading distributor of crop protection products and agricultural seed in the U.S. serving approximately 3,500 retail partners spanning 47 states. In 2014, Crop Inputs, operated through WinField, delivered $220 million in pretax earnings on sales of $4.9 billion. These results continue a multi-year trend of growth, driven by the market strength of the WinField brand and successful pursuit of new opportunities in rapidly growing 16 Agri Marketing s June 2015 Plant health analysis such as WinField’s NutriSolutions 360° tissue sampling helps farmers and those supporting them better understand nutrient uptake so they can make more sustainable decisions about when and where to use crop inputs. agribusiness segments that focus on productivity, sustainability and new technologies in precision agriculture. “Look at companies like Chipotle andWhole Foods, for example,” continues Vande Logt. “They’ve built advertising campaigns and in-store experiences around what they portray as sustainable farming practices. I won’t get into whether they’re accurate or not, but the fact that it’s a focal point for them is a sign of the increasing importance of sustainability in the eyes of the consumer.” THE WALMART FACTOR Walmart’s on-going commitment to a sustainable food system may be the largest elephant in the room. In 2010, Walmart launched its global commitment to sustainable agriculture that, according to the company, “Will help small and medium-sized farmers expand their businesses, get more income for their products, and reduce the environmental impact of farming, while strengthening local economies and providing customers around the world with long-term access to affordable, high-quality, fresh food.” Walmart’s strategy was divided into three broad areas: support farmers and their communities, produce more food with fewer resources and less waste, and sustainably source key agricultural products. In 2014, the company announced a new commitment to a sustainable food system and outlined its four pillars to address the major issues and threats facing today’s global food system, making the food supply: Affordable, Accessible, Healthier, Safe and Transparent. Obviously, as the largest retailer in the world, Walmart can influence change throughout the food chain. At its first-ever “Sustainability Product Expo” in 2014, Walmart joined forces with more than a dozen global companies, including Monsanto, Proctor & Gamble, The Coca-Cola Company, Cargill and Dairy Farmers of America, to sign new commitments that accelerate innovation in sustainable agriculture and recycling. FIELD TO MARKET Walmart is also a member of Field to Market, an alliance of a diverse group
AgCareers Canada 2015