June 8, 2021
Farmers play critical role in addressing pandemic, says Cargill CEO
Cargill chairman and chief executive officer David MacLennan addressed members of the National Feed and Grain Association (US) on June 4 at the organisation's 125th annual convention, acknowledging farmers and ranchers as the heroes of the food system who played a critical role in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
"When the world shut down, farmers, ranchers and workers across the food system stepped up to meet the challenge to produce the food and feed that billions of people and animals around the world depend on," said MacLennan.
He acknowledged that while disruptions of COVID-19 are still very much at play, that's not the only urgent challenge that the food and agriculture industry faces right now.
"The greatest challenge we face is feeding a rapidly growing population, sustainably and responsibly – reducing our emissions, protecting our water resources and improving the health of the soil our crops and harvests depend on," he said. "Agriculture is part of the solution the world needs right now. Agriculture is how we'll solve for climate change and sustainably feed a growing population."
MacLennan citied the need for broad and lasting efforts at every point in the supply chain to sustainably and responsibly feed a rapidly growing population estimated to reach close to 10 billion people by 2050.
"Inaction is not option," he said. "Too often, our industry gets blamed for climate change. I see a different story. Farmers and ranchers are the heroes of our food system. And they play a critical role in creating a more sustainable future for our industry and the world. The changes we make at the roots of our supply chain will deliver the greatest impact – by reducing emissions, improving water quality, sequestering carbon and building up the resilience of our soils for the next generation. Companies can set as many climate goals as we want. But without the support and leadership of farmers, none of it will happen. They've got to lead the way and we're here to partner with them on this important, ongoing effort."
Cargill has made significant strides to advance sustainability commitments including its science-based climate commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its global supply chains by 30% per tonne of product by 2030. The company is also working to support voluntary, farmer led adoption of regenerative agriculture across 10 million acres of North American farmland over the same time period.
Through financial contributions and partnerships across the supply chain, Cargill is supporting, training and removing financial barriers for farmers who want to rebuild the health of their soils, plant cover crops, use more sustainable grazing practices and make better use of their water.
For example, through the Iowa Soil & Water Outcomes Fund, farmers can receive US$30 to US$50 per acre for practices such as cover crops, reduced tillage and optimised nutrient management.
Cargill is also advancing research to evaluate the economic benefits of regenerative agriculture. In a study of 100 farmers across nine US states conducted by The Soil Health Institute, researchers found that soil health management systems increased incomes for 85% of farmers growing corn and 88% of farmers growing soybeans. Average incomes for corn growers increased by US$52 per acre and US$45 per acre for soybeans.
Additionally, farmers reported reduced average costs, increased yields, better crop resilience against extreme weather events and improved water quality.
"Farmers are leading the way. They're on the front lines of climate change every day. And we need to lift up the good work they're doing already," said MacMillan. "The benefits of regenerative agriculture are clear. But so are the barriers. To see change, we have to work together. Agriculture is how we'll get it done."