Building a Stronger Ag Industry: increasing resiliency through sustainability

It may be the final day of Farm Bureau’s convention but the conversation on building a stronger ag industry will continue long after folks log off.

Agricultural leaders explore what is needed to take the next step in sustainability.

Arizona Farm Bureau President Stephanie Smallhouse says that the industry is looking to build on a legacy of stewardship. “Farmers and ranchers have been practicing conservation, and have been focused on sustainability for decades, even before we had this renewed focus on sustainability,” she states.

However, keeping track of the conservation work happening on farms is one of the key challenges for ag businesses looking to support producers, according to Jack Scott, Purina Nestle’s Vice President of Sustainability.

“When we take a look at the different things we are working on, scale and measurement tend to be two of the bigger limitations and challenges that we’re facing,” he states.

He says farmers and consumers also need to be on the same page: “Sometimes I feel like there is a misunderstanding between the two ends. As much as consumers need to have an understanding of what is actually taking place on the farm and hearing that from farmers. Farmers at the same time need to understand some of what consumers are thinking about when they are thinking about buying their food and what they are going to choose, as well.”

Dayna Gross, a Senior Adviser at the Nature Conservancy, says that funding conservation projects is a critical piece of the puzzle.

The Nature Conservancy recently partnered with Cornell University and the Paulsen Institute to release a paper on financing the sustainability funding gap.

According to Gross, “They identified that if we are smarter about how we invest, if we are smarter about how we allocate funding, there actually is enough funding out there to get it in the right places to reverse the climate issue and biodiversity issues we are seeing around the world.”

For Josiah McClellan, Corteva’s Sustainability Leader, sustainability is a way for farmers to survive challenges like extreme weather, unpredictable markets, and even global pandemics.

“If 2019 or 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that things can change really quickly at the macro level in our supply chain and at the micro level with families and individual’s health,” he adds. “So, making sure that we are better prepared and are setting ourselves up to be more resilient is exactly what sustainability is about.”

McClellan recommends keeping in touch with company reps, grain elevators, and advocacy groups like the Farm Bureau, to stay up to date on conservation resources being offered by businesses.