In March, US food multinational General Mills announced that it was funding a scheme to convert a million acres of American farmland into ‘regenerative agriculture’ practices by 2030.
The company said it would “partner with conventional farmers, suppliers and trusted farm advisors” on the project, which aims to develop sustainable farming solutions that offer climate change mitigation benefits, improves soil health and land resilience.
General Mills is granting $650,000 to non-profit organisation Kiss the Ground to support farmer training and coaching through Soil Health Academies where growers will learn how to “increase farm profitability, build resiliency into the land and decrease input costs using soil health practices”.
The company says the initiative builds on its previously stated commitment to improving soil health and reducing its absolute GHG emissions by 28% by 2025.
General Mills claims it is leading the development among big food businesses in the development of measurement science to “connect regenerative agricultural practices like no-till and cover cropping, to environmental and economic outcomes”.
“As organic is just 1% of total agriculture lands in the US today, if we wait for organic to catch up we simply won’t be able to implement these environmental outcomes fast enough”
In a recent BBC World Service programme (‘Organic Inc.’), presenter Emily Thomas asked General Mills’ natural and organic operating unit president and corporate officer, Carla Vernón, about the company’s experience with organics (Annie’s, Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen and Food Should Taste Good are its growing roster of organic brands). Vernón said that acquiring organic businesses had been “eye-opening” for General Mills. “Some of the methods that organic farmers use, some of the inspiring approaches, can be applied in conventional farming and our CEO has been very public about our ambition to convert a million acres into a kind of hybrid, regenerative approach. We can improve soil health, biodiversity, the water tables, and levels of carbon sequestration through our conventional brands like Cheerios.
“Because these existing brands account for so much acreage they can effect really significant change. We don’t see those two things in conflict. As organic is just 1% of total agriculture lands in the US today, if we wait for organic to scale up we simply won’t be able to implement these environmental outcomes fast enough.”
Main image. Regenerative agriculture scheme (General Mills)