Sustainability Series: Field To Market
July 9, 2015
Founded in 2006, Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture is a diverse initiative that joins stakeholders from all levels of the supply chain to create sustainable agriculture. The alliance has emerged as a leading sustainability initiative, focusing on science- and outcomes-based, multi-stakeholder approaches to sustainability for commodity crop production. We talked to Field to Market President Rod Snyder about the organization’s efforts to advance the sustainability of corn, cotton, potatoes, rice, soybeans and wheat production.
What goals are priorities for Field to Market?
Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture is working to meet the challenge of producing enough food, fiber and fuel for a rapidly growing population while conserving natural resources and improving the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. To advance the sustainability of U.S. agriculture, our membership has committed to drive sustainable outcomes for corn, cotton, potatoes, rice, soybeans, wheat and other crops by delivering:
- Sustained improvement in energy use efficiency from U.S. crop production.
- Sustained reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. cropland per unit of output.
- Sustained improvement of land use efficiency by increasing productivity on U.S. cropland, conserving native habitat, and enhancing landscape quality.
- Sustained reduction in soil erosion to tolerable levels or below on all U.S. cropland.
- Sustained contribution to solving regional water quality problems as evidenced by reductions in sediment, phosphorus, nitrogen, and pesticide loads from U.S. cropland.
- Sustained contribution to solving regional water scarcity problems through continual improvement in irrigation water use efficiency and conservation.
To achieve these goals, Field to Market will seek to engage 20 percent of productive acres of U.S. commodity crop production, which is equivalent to 50 million acres, in our Supply Chain Sustainability Program by 2020.
How many members do you have and what sectors are represented?
Field to Market brings together a diverse group of grower organizations; agribusinesses; food, beverage, restaurant and retail companies; conservation groups; universities and public sector partners to focus on defining, measuring and advancing the sustainability of food, fiber and fuel production in the U.S. Field to Market is comprised of 75 members representing all facets of the U.S. agricultural supply chain, with member companies employing more than 3.9 million people and representing combined revenues totaling over $1.3 trillion.
How do you see your members using the work product from Field to Market?
Field to Market unites its membership to deliver sustainable outcomes for agriculture by forging partnerships across the supply chain to catalyze continuous improvement in productivity, environmental quality and human well-being. With nearly 30 Fieldprint® Projects in 20 states, these supply chain partnerships are linking companies and their suppliers directly with farmers, helping improve crop production and natural resource management inside the farm gate.
By utilizing Field to Market’s Fieldprint® Calculator, farmers can assess the environmental performance of their management practices against local, state and national benchmarks for eight sustainability indicators that have been developed through a multi-stakeholder process:
- Water Quality
- Soil Conservation
- Soil Carbon
- Land Use Efficiency
- Irrigated Water Use Efficiency
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- Energy Use Efficiency
- Biodiversity (Piloting)
Once farmers understand the environmental performance of their farm management practice, Field to Market and its members help them identify opportunities for improving productivity, profitability and environmental outcomes through collaborations with existing continuous improvement tools, technologies, programs and initiatives.
Downstream companies that participate in these Fieldprint Projects then have the ability to access aggregated, field-level data in a standardized and anonymized fashion to characterize the sustainability of their sourcing regions and make sustainability claims about the raw materials they are sourcing.
What are your short-term and long-term goals?
In order to drive sustained reductions and improvements in the sustainability indicators that Field to Market measures, scaling our program is key. At present, Field to Market has more than one million acres actively engaged in measuring the environmental performance of commodity crop production. Our goal is to reach a total of two million acres in 2015 and double that acreage for the next five years to reach our goal of engaging 50 million acres in our Supply Chain Sustainability Program by 2020.
Field to Market is working with several members to pilot the integration of an application programming interface (API) for the Fieldprint Calculator with existing on-farm management software. We believe that harnessing the power of the existing data that farmers are already collecting will be an inflection point, enabling exponential growth for Field to Market’s Supply Chain Sustainability Program while reducing the burden on farmers for duplicative data entry.
Where do you think you’ll have the biggest impact?
The approach that Field to Market uses is outcomes-based technology neutral and grounded in sound science. So rather than prescribing specific practices, Field to Market is interested in working with farmers to innovate in ways that will have the most meaningful benefit for the environment while maintaining productivity and profitability. There are many examples of growers who are participating in the program who are managing nutrients more efficiently, conserving water and reducing soil erosion, which is a win-win for the environment and their bottom line. As Field to Market’s program expands, these field level outcomes delivered at scale will translate into significant water quality improvements at a watershed level, reduced pressure on aquifers, improved soil health and fewer greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture sector.
How do you measure your progress?
Field to Market measures our progress by tracking the number of acres across the country actively managing for sustainability as well as measuring and reporting progress in delivering sustained improvements or reductions in sustainability outcomes based on a five-year rolling average.
How do retailers factor into your efforts?
Field to Market’s membership currently includes the world’s largest food and food service retailers, Walmart and McDonald’s. By participating in Field to Market, both organizations are able to partner with their suppliers to advance continuous improvement in key sustainability outcomes, while benefiting from industry alignment around a common sustainability framework. This common framework helps them track progress against their corporate sustainability commitments and offers an opportunity to share the sustainability efforts of U.S. agriculture with consumers, shareholders and other stakeholders.
How active are the producers and farm-facing groups in your effort?
From our initiative’s beginning in 2006, farm-facing groups and producers like the American Soybean Association, National Cotton Council and National Corn Growers Association have been actively involved in defining, measuring and advancing the sustainability of U.S. commodity crop production. Today, we have 16 grower associations actively engaged in Field to Market, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Potato Council and USA Rice Federation. Leadership from these groups is critical to engaging growers across the country on this journey of continuous improvement.
What do you want consumers to know about Field to Market?
Unparalleled collaboration from across the agricultural supply chain – from growers to seed providers, grain companies to food manufacturers, and retailers to universities and conservation groups – is driving sustainable outcomes for U.S. agriculture and seeking to provide more sustainable choices on store shelves.