May 30, 2014

EDF, Smithfield Foods collaborate to reduce fertiliser runoff


Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is collaborating with Smithfield Foods and its livestock production subsidiary, Murphy-Brown LLC, to help farmers optimise fertiliser application to feed grain.

Fertiliser is needed to grow crops, but excess nitrogen fertiliser not absorbed by crops can run off the land and pollute water sources. Excess fertiliser also releases significant amounts of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas (GHG) 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Agriculture is the fifth largest source of GHG emissions in the United States.

"Commercial fertiliser is an often overlooked as a significant opportunity to combat climate change and improve water quality," said David Festa, EDF Vice President, Ecosystems.

"Our initiative with Smithfield is an important part of a comprehensive effort underway at EDF to ensure agricultural production meets human needs for food and contributes to the resilience of our environment. By working with farmers and engaging all points along the food supply chain, we can significantly reduce fertiliser runoff, safeguard our environment and ensure farm productivity."

Smithfield is a major supplier of pork products sold to Walmart, which is asking suppliers who use commodity grains like corn, wheat and soy in their products to develop plans that reduce fertiliser loss on farms. Out of 15 fertiliser optimisation plans submitted to Walmart by its major suppliers, Smithfield's plan, which includes its work with EDF, was selected as "best in class" by the company.

"Smithfield and Murphy-Brown believe that this project will demonstrate how innovative fertiliser application practices will benefit farmers while providing additional environmental protection. Through this collaborative effort with EDF, we will be able to reach out to the local grain farmers with whom we do business and leverage the economic and environmental benefits for all involved," said Dennis H. Treacy, Executive Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer of Smithfield Foods.

The new programme will help farmers who sell grain to Murphy-Brown learn to use new tools and practices that more precisely match fertiliser application with their crops' needs and improve soil health. The company, which raises hogs in North Carolina, said the goal is to have 75% of its southeast grain-sourcing acres participate in a fertiliser optimisation and soil health programme by 2018. The programme will commence in North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina this year.

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