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The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative is a diverse coalition working to expand agricultural solutions that protect air and water quality and enhance soil health while remaining committed to producing enough food to feed the growing global population. These leading companies and conservation groups are all committed to building a broad partnership in three pilot states: Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. This group will measure and deliver improved environmental outcomes through cross-sector collaboration and continuous improvement at a meaningful scale throughout the Upper Mississippi River Basin.
The Collaborative strives to meet the challenge of producing enough food, fiber, and fuel for a rapidly growing population expected to exceed 9 billion people by 2050, while also conserving and improving natural resources and ensuring the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
The Collaborative’s aim is to provide leadership in contributing to climate change action and helping solve local and macro water challenges, such as Gulf hypoxia and groundwater depletion, by working with growers to help foster improvements.
The Collaborative wants to support, enhance, and accelerate the environmentally-friendly agricultural practices already underway in Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska to deliver more food while improving water and air quality, optimizing irrigation efficiency to conserve water and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Through cross-sector collaboration, the Collaborative is seeking to build a broad partnership to measure and deliver improved outcomes on climate change, water use, and water quality that can be scaled up throughout the Upper Mississippi River Basin.
A key measure of success is our ability to blend and leverage this effort with the various technical and regional information and efforts already in place. Forging partnerships with local partners is absolutely essential to eliminate redundant efforts across the various organizations and partners.
The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative is committed to working with others — farmer organizations, environmental groups, and state and local watershed partnerships — to achieve the goals outlined in the Gulf Hypoxia Taskforce action plan and respective state nutrient and water loss reduction plans. Those common goals include:
- 75 percent of row crop acres in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska are engaged in sustainability measures that will result in optimizing Field to Market Fieldprint® analyses and soil health practices outcomes.
- Reduce nutrient (primarily nitrogen and phosphorus) loading from Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska by 20 percent as a milestone to meet agreed upon Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force goal of 45 percent reduction in nutrient loading.
- 50 percent of all irrigation units used in Nebraska will maximize water conservation to reduce pressure on the Ogallala Aquifer.
- Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska have met the 45 percent nitrogen loss reduction goal and partnerships and goals are established to expand the Collaborative across the Upper Mississippi River Basin.
The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative, comprised of sustainable agriculture leaders, is committed to working with policymakers to advance public policies and programs that progress sustainable agriculture and scale the adoption of conservation practices. The Collaborative is working to create opportunities to replicate and scale sustainable outcomes in critically important areas.
To achieve this, it is important that the policy landscape keeps pace with sustainability efforts in the private sector. The following six principles can serve as a guide to ensure alignment as industry-leading, multinational companies and NGOs collaborate to advance policy options that will support and accelerate collaborative action and progress towards a more sustainable agricultural system.
Align agricultural program requirements to conservation objectives
Publicly-sponsored agricultural programs should encourage conservation objectives. The Collaborative supports incentives for farmers to adopt effective conservation when participating in these programs.
Increase availability and access to financial and other incentives
Up-front costs, insufficient investment returns, risks, and lack of knowledge can be barriers to successful implementation of conservation practices. The Collaborative supports increasing availability of incentives to farmers to overcome cost, risk, or learning-curve barriers to adoption of conservation measures.
Ensure programs are science driven
Conservation programs that incentivize farmers through public or private action should be aligned to scientific understanding. The Collaborative supports transparency and research to drive environmentally beneficial outcomes at scale, including improved processes to incorporate the latest science and conservation technologies into program implementation.
Foster public-private partnerships
The Collaborative supports and engages in programs that leverage public and private dollars and other resources to maximize resources, increase efficiencies, and build resilience and sustainable outcomes. There are many examples that prove partnering with local and regional governments and non-governmental entities is efficient and cost-effective.
Couple farmer incentives with technical assistance
Farmer financial and other voluntary incentives are a critical tool to support adoption of conservation practices and drive environmental outcomes. To ensure long-lasting adoption at scale, incentives must be paired with technical support for farmers to help them make the best decision for their farm. To best provide expanded technical assistance, the Collaborative supports increased communication and collaboration between public and private sector farm advisers.
Access to information
Farmers, agribusiness, companies and their partners need the best available data to make decisions on the farm and in the supply chain. The Collaborative supports engaging in relevant open data efforts at the state, federal and international levels.
For the first time ever, leading food and agriculture supply chain companies and conservation organizations have formed an “end-to-end” partnership to support farmers in the improvement of soil health and water quality. The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative’s members include Cargill, Environmental Defense Fund, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Land O’Lakes, McDonald’s, Monsanto, PepsiCo, The Nature Conservancy, Unilever, Walmart, and World Wildlife Fund.
“As an agricultural and food company, Cargill sees the MRCC as a way to support and accelerate the adoption of existing conservation programs set up by farmers and work with customers and organizations that share sustainability goals with the ag community.”
“This collaboration between environmental organizations and some of the world’s largest agriculture-based companies should lead to significantly ramped-up water conservation in the Midwest. TNC is eager to use our science and expertise to accelerate solutions that match the scale of the challenges we face in that region, such as improving water quality across the Midwest and addressing the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.”
“Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) collaborates across the entire agricultural supply chain to catalyze and scale sustainability practices that are good for farmers, agribusinesses, food companies, retailers, consumers, and the planet. To make sustainability a business norm, we need to empower farmers with access to better tools and information, support efforts by food companies and retailers like Walmart to reduce supply chain risk, and meet growing consumer demand for transparency. That’s why EDF is so excited to be a part of the MRCC, which will bring fertilizer efficiency, soil health and green infrastructure practices to scale across some of the nation’s most important row crop growing regions. This will not only help farmers’ bottom lines, but also reduce fertilizer losses, as well as air and water pollution.”
“General Mills joined the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative to address complex environmental impacts from agriculture – specifically on soil health and water quality. Our company purpose is to “Serve the world by making food people love” and to do so, we rely heavily on farmers, healthy soil and access to quality water. We recognize that by the year 2050, our shared natural resources will be increasingly challenged to produce enough food to meet the needs of a growing global population. At General Mills, we know that we cannot address these challenges alone. We believe that collaboration at scale is key to achieving a more sustainable agriculture network capable of fostering long term water stewardship, soil health and food security. As a founding member, we are proud to support MRCC.”
“Farmers are committed to using natural resources efficiently while taking on the risks and challenges of feeding a growing world. At Monsanto, we are committed to collaborating with farmers and advancing agriculture to help solve the big challenges we’re facing today such as a growing population, finite resources of our planet and climate change. We are proud to join the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative to invest in community development, education, research and conservation programs to assist farmers as they continue to adopt progressive and sustainable practices. We know we are just one piece of the puzzle and believe we grow better together.”
“Walmart has a long standing commitment to preserve natural resources and to deliver affordable, sustainable and healthier food choices to our customer while promoting product transparency and quality. The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative’s pledge to improving air quality, promoting clean water and enhancing soil health is the obvious step to empower America’s farmers with the necessary tools and resources to achieve a more sustainable future. Over the years, we have realized that we can use our strengths to serve local communities in ways that go beyond our retail mission. Therefore, we are collaborating to improve farming and sourcing practices to help reduce environmental and social impact on forests, water and land. We are now excited to join forces with other strong companies and organizations that make up this great Midwest Row Crop Collaborative.”
“Farming is all about thinking ahead. American farmers have long pioneered innovative ways to produce food, but the stakes have never been higher to produce food sustainably. This collaboration builds on the long history of innovation and promises to advance new solutions that support healthy soil and abundant fresh water for all.”
“We are proud to be a founding member of the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative to support farmers and protect the land by fostering local efforts on sustainable agriculture. At Kellogg, we strive to make food people love. And today, that means more than food that tastes great. People care about where their food comes from, the people who grow and make it, and that there’s enough for everyone. We believe in great tasting food you can feel good about, too. We must live our values and communicate with transparency to earn our seat at millions of tables every day. That’s why we’re giving our foods the best start possible by working with farmers, nurturing the land and waters that help grow our ingredients.”