I just talked to a very sharp large progressive producer fresh off a plane from Brazil, concerned that his fellow American farmers “don’t get” food companies’ sustainability emphasis. He toured Brazil with 25 large American farmers, “and when the topic of sustainable food production came up, it was not even on their radar,” he says.
Not surprisingly, he does not want to be identified.
He continues, “It’s not hard to imagine Fortune 500 food companies saying, ‘we are only buying corn, soybeans, wheat, oats—whatever—produced in a way that meets our metrics for responsibly using water, fertilizer, energy and soil in a way that we can document to our consumers. One of my great fears is that American food companies will require third-party verification that food ingredients are grown ‘sustainably.’ And U.S. ag is gonna drag its feet. Brazil is so far ahead of us (in understanding that consumers want to know more about how their food is grown, and food companies are responding.) Not changing with the times is the ultimate risk.
“Aren’t we supposed to produce something the consumer wants; isn’t that the job of anyone who produces a product,” my caller asks. “I got a feeling that my counterparts in production ag think if they ignore food companies’ sustainability emphasis, it will go away.
“These farmers are missing the boat because our government has trained them not to do anything unless it pays them to.
“Not changing is the riskiest strategy of all.”
Sustainability is defined by the Field to Market group, a consortium of agricultural, conservation and food organizations, as: meeting the needs of the present while improving the ability of future generations to meet their own needs by:
- Increasing productivity to meet future food, fuel and fiber demands
- Improving the environment
- Improving human health
- Improving the social and economic well-being of agricultural communities
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