Collaborative action for sustainable Midwest row crop agriculture at the Sustainable Ag Summit

The Midwest represents a globally unique resource and economically vital area of agricultural production. The region faces mounting environmental and economic challenges from climate change and other pressures on the landscape. From rising temperatures to wetter springs like the floods of 2019 to extreme weather events like the derecho earlier this year, the devastation of these extreme weather events is a stark reminder of just how fragile our farming system can be.

As we look to the decade ahead, there is a recognition that collaborative action, working together with stakeholders across the value chain, will be critical to overcome the entrenched challenges confronting our agricultural system—the type of action that groups like the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative are driving with companies, NGOs, farmers, and others with a stake in our food system.

A range of barriers persistently hinder development of solutions to these challenges at the pace and scale we need. These systemic challenges cannot be solved by any one organization, in a complex and interdependent sector with millions of actors and interests. The system will not change without an active role being played by companies in the value chain.

Since its inception in 2016, members of the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative have implemented regenerative practices on over a quarter-million acres of farmland in the Midwest, helped to reduce risks for farmers by providing data and financial incentives to support practice adoption, and provided education and increased awareness about soil health, water quality, and climate mitigation among thousands of practitioners and consumers. Based on the learning from this work, the Collaborative has adopted a systems change approach that considers the full spectrum of environmental, economic, and human factors needed to transform to more sustainable supply chains.

What does collaborative action look like beyond short-term projects? MRCC’s members are co-developing and implementing a variety of pilot projects, spurring creativity and experimentation and sharing the risks and investment, in an effort to establish proof cases that can be scaled.

But collaboration in not always easy. The members’ journey together has included its share of challenges and lessons learned, and MRCC itself has undergone significant transformation.

At the Sustainable Agriculture Summit (Nov. 18-19), MRCC is hosting a session that brings members from CPG, retail, and the nonprofit sector together to share examples of collaborative projects that span the food & agriculture value chain to drive adoption of sustainable practices, sharing both successes and challenges. Members will highlight their experience working as a collaborative—both the opportunities and challenges, and how company and NGO members work together across different parts of value chain.

Participants will learn about the important role that putting shared learning into action plays in the growth and continuous improvement of members’ programs, for the good of farmers, the food on our plates, and the planet. To attend the Sustainable Ag Summit and our session on Wednesday, November 18th (11:15a CT), register now!

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