Big Food's plan to make U.S. cash crops more sustainable

Big Food's plan to make U.S. cash crops more sustainable

Feed corn, ready to harvest on the stalks
FlickrU.S. Department of Agriculture2013
Feed corn, ready to harvest on the stalks at the John N. Mills & Sons farm in Hanover and King William Counties, Va. Big food companies such as General Mills and Coca-Cola are looking to use more sustainable farming practices to produce commodity crops such as corn, soybeans, cotton and wheat.

While big food companies are against GMO labels on food, they seem to be moving forward on other issues as members of the Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. General Mills, Kellogg's, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Cargill are among the members.

The Alliance consists of 66 grower organizations; agribusinesses; food, beverage, restaurant and retail companies; conservation groups; universities and public sector partners. The alliance's members say they're committed to "sustainable outcomes for commodity crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, rice and potatoes."

Their "Field to Market" initiative is engaging the entire agricultural supply chain to "address the collective environmental challenges we face and responsibly manage our planet's natural resources," said Rod Snyder, the alliance's president.

The goal is to improve agricultural practices for 20 percent of U.S. commodity crop production on 50 million acres by 2020.

Williams Farm in Mississippi grows corn, soy and cotton on 40 percent of the land, and preserves habitat for bobwhites and waterfowl.

Alliance members pledge to reduce soil erosion to tolerable levels or below on all U.S. cropland, improve productivity on farms to preserve wildlife habitat and to improve regional water quality by reducing sediment, phosphorus, nitrogen and pesticide loads from farms. Members also pledge to improve regional water availability through efficient irrigation and conservation, increase energy efficiency in crop production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farms per unit of output.

The Alliance has a calculator that estimates farm performance on land use and conservation, carbon in the soil, water quality and consumption, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. The next step is to work with the Sustainability Consortium on a way to measure and report on the sustainability of U.S. agriculture.

Learn more about Field to Market at the organization's website.

This article first appeared on SustainableBusiness.