It is thrilling to have private companies, such as General Mills, Land O’Lakes, Kellogg’s, and McDonald’s, craving more sustainable “food inputs”. For years, conservation circles have hoped the consumer would demand more sustainable grains and meats. This snowball has started to roll in the last couple of years.
However, getting the message from a food company’s corporate headquarters to the farm gate is a challenge. Many food companies may seek more sustainable food inputs, but very few can directly influence how ag products are grown. They lack direct interaction with farmers.
I read an article this morning titled Big firms respond to demand for sustainability. In it, Bill Berry writes, “Companies like General Mills, Land O’ Lakes, Kellogg’s and McDonald’s, to name just a few among many, are actively implementing sustainability measures. To be successful, they can’t look only at their own footprints, but need to reach all the way down to the soil where their products are grown and on up the supply chain.”
My biggest concern is that the pledges being made by these food companies will outpace what the American farmer can provide. Land O’Lakes has a natural advantage. It is the only company I know of that bridges the gap from the consumer’s table (butter and milk) to the farm gate (agronomic services).
I agree with Bill, “It’s entirely possible that the marketplace will drive improvement faster than any government program.” We just need to make sure farmers can meet the demand.
Farmers need help meeting the sustainability demands of the food companies; more help than our current conservation delivery system can provide. Since ag retailers are seen as the farmers’ most trusted advisor, the burden will fall on them. Companies like Land O’Lakes and United Suppliers are positioned to help food companies bridge the gap between the consumer’s table and the farm gate.