“Measure To Improve” Gathers Data

“Measure to Improve” on Measuring Sustainability

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Sustainability is important in today’s agricultural fields. California Ag Today recently spoke with Nikki Rodoni of Measure to Improve in Salinas about the topic. Measure to Improve aims to help growers credibly promote their sustainability efforts.

“It takes about a year before I really earn the trust from the growers because we are collecting data that is very intimate to their operation, such as production data, waste data, fuel data and energy data,” Rodoni said.

There are plenty of benefits in becoming more sustainable, such as, “a company morale improvement when employees know that they are working for a company that takes this seriously and really doing the right thing,” she explained.

It is always good when people are proud of where they work, and sustainability can really help improve business strategy.

“We have to start with a good business case that translates into environmental benefits. It does not mean being warm and fuzzy just for the sake of trying to build a brand image,” Rodoni said.

Measure to Improve does strives to do things that make good business sense. They aim to help collect data to support decisions to help farmers improve.

“For instance, when you are thinking about a capital investment, finding out water can be conserved is really high regarding sustainability. It is all about data tracking and practices and telling your story,” Rodoni said.

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CEO Council on Sustainability and Innovation Launched

Agribusiness CEOs and Bipartisan Policy Center Launch CEO Council on Sustainability and Innovation


Washington, D.C. – Leading agribusiness CEOs announced TODAY they are joining together with the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) to launch the CEO Council on Sustainability and Innovation to improve agriculture and food production sustainability.

Leaders of DuPont, Elanco, Kellogg Company and Land O’ Lakes joined the Council, which will research, collect and amplify innovative approaches in the agribusiness industry, over the next several months, to combat and adapt to the realities of increasing climate volatility, a growing population, and other threats to a stable food supply.

“In the next 35 years, experts anticipate demand for animal protein will climb by 60 percent as the population grows in size and affluence. Already demand for milk, eggs and poultry is outpacing anticipated expectations,” said Jeff Simmons, president, Elanco. “We can’t just rely on the public sector to address these challenges. The private sector must deliver innovative solutions that can help farmers sustainably meet our global food needs.” 

“Achieving a sustainable future food supply and responding to the challenges posed by climate change are dependent on our collective actions,” said John Bryant, chairman and ceo, Kellogg Company. “Kellogg and others in our industry have a role to play in sharing innovative solutions and inspiring others to progress along their own sustainability journey.”

“To feed a growing global population, the food and agriculture industry must continue to increase agricultural productivity while facing climate variability and resource constraints,” said Chris Policinski, president and ceo of Land O’Lakes, Inc. “By working together, we can be more effective and efficient partners to enable a sustainable and productive supply chain.”

“The cost and availability of food is an issue of critical importance to all Americans,” said Jason Grumet, president, BPC. “The council will help kickstart a more robust national conversation about what’s already being done to promote sustainable food production and what more needs to be done.”

Although there is extensive industry research into various sustainability practices, there is little collective understanding of the strategies being deployed, nor is there public appreciation of adaptation challenges, mitigation opportunities, and the importance of agriculture in what must be a global conversation. The council will highlight and promote these innovative efforts.

The council’s work will culminate in a public report to be released in 2016.

Sustainability Questions From California Officials

At the annual United Fresh Conference in Chicago, which attracts the produce industry from California and all over the United States, there was a talk on sustainability. Could it be just another regulation?

Barry Bedwell is the President of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League in Fresno. He thinks the whole idea of farming sustainability could just be another regulation.

“When you look at sustainability you have to understand that we need to show value and rely on the value by the existing regulatory network. While we may not always agree with has been regulate or to the extent of regulation, it should provide confidence to other third parties particularly our demand-side partners.” said Bedwell

Barry mentions that much of what the sustainability initiative wants is already provided.

“There is compliance with social accountability issues, there is compliance with environmental friendly issues. There is compliance actually with economically viable issues as well. So number one, understand the value of the regulatory system before you go to a new initiative, understand what is already in place thorough regulations.” said Bedwell.

Bedwell says some of the proposals that have been brought forwards have secondary agendas.

“With somebody who comes in and says “Well I want to participate in a food safety initiative” it may be that their primary goal is involved with worker organization, under organized labor. The retailers and demand-side partners should understand that sustainability should not be used as a marketing tool. That there shouldn’t be a rush to “out sustain” one another. Because by doing that and creating further unofficial regulation on the producers you’re going to do the opposite, you’re going to make them less sustainable.” said Bedwell.

“So are message is, sustainability is an absolute positive thing, we probably have been doing it for many many years, what we haven’t been doing is communicating effectively. Can we improve? absolutely.” said Bedwell. “But lets understand what’s already in place, lets understand some of the motives of those that are pushing sustainability. Then also understand the role of the true partnership between the demand and supply sides.”

Earth Day, 2014

Source: Tara Weaver-Missick, USDA Agricultural Research Service Information Staff 

Today is Earth Day, which gives us the opportunity to celebrate the magnificence of our planet.  It’s a day to observe and support our environmental commitment to our pearth daylanet now and in the future.

USDA scientists play an important role in protecting our environment.  Much of our research is focused on finding sustainable agricultural solutions to producing food, feed and fiber to meet our nation’s and the world’s ever-growing demand.

We develop environmentally friendly practices that farmers, ranchers, and others involved in food production can integrate into their operations.

One such project spearheaded by USDA-Agricultural Research Service scientists is the Long-Term Agro-ecosystem Research (LTAR) network, which addresses how to intensify production while minimizing environmental impact.

ARS established LTAR—which includes 18 experimental watersheds, rangelands and farms—to more closely coordinate and examine large-scale, multi-year research, environmental management and technology transfer efforts related to the nation’s agricultural ecosystems.

ARS scientists are gathering data from these sites to evaluate and develop practices that help keep farmers in business, but that are economical as well.  To do so, scientists will analyze agricultural production, environmental quality, natural resource use and economic return over the next 30 to 50 years, against a background of global population growth, land use change and climate variability that makes predicting future trends difficult.

LTAR sites are spread across the United States and are located in major watersheds—each with its own unique landscape, environmental influences and habitat. Each region has its own unique environment and growing conditions that farmers and ranchers have to weigh.

Information derived from this project will be used to develop site- and region-specific agricultural production practices that protect and enrich our natural resources.

LTAR network research will help producers provide agricultural and other ecosystem-related goods and services under changing environmental conditions to meet society’s changing demands on natural resources.

When the network was formed in February 2011, it began with 10 sites.  Seeing a critical need for even more robust data, in 2014 ARS added eight more LTAR sites, filling network gaps in key agricultural regions.

The driving factor behind this network approach to gathering and conducting long-term research was the need to provide enough food, feed, fiber and fuel for a global population expected to grow to more than 9 billion people by 2050.

Changing climatic conditions, like extreme temperatures and precipitation, have a major impact on our global food production system—and related natural resources used to produce that food.  ARS scientists and our partners are searching for sustainable solutions that will help us be good stewards of the earth and its environment.

USDA scientists are doing their part to preserve our planet for generations to come.  Happy Earth Day!

See more at: http://blogs.usda.gov/2014/04/22/celebrating-our-glorious-planet/#more-51355