Agribusinesses work with farms to increase sustainability and reduce impacts of agriculture on natural resources.

Agribusinesses bringing sustainability to customers

By Matt Reese

The word “sustainability” means a wide array of things to different people and Ohio’s agribusinesses have been working for many years to help customers be more sustainable in their own operations.

Products

In some cases, the products themselves offer significant benefits to the sustainability of the farms using them.

“We’ve been selling cover crop seed to local growers for many years. As policies change and there has been more incentive, we have worked with growers to get the right cover crop programs on their farm to benefit their operation financially as well as environmentally,” said Kara Spicer with B&B Ag-Vantages, Inc. in Conover. “We now have many farmers successfully using cover crops to improve their operations.”

In the case of NACHURS Alpine Solutions, the company’s liquid fertilizer product offerings are built around helping customers implement the 4R philosophy.

“Our products fit in quite easily with current sustainable practices such as cover crops and reduced tillage as they do not require soil tillage to be incorporated in the growing environment,” said Becky Worley, brand specialist for NACHURS Alpine Solutions. “Our products are focused on feeding the growing plant and not so much about changing the bulk soil characteristics, which could unfortunately lead to off-target movement of nutrients.”

NACHURS Premium products provide a highly soluble and available primary plant nutrient (potassium) along with a carbon-based molecule (acetate) which is the most abundant organic acid found in nature. With steadily increasing scrutiny on the environmental impacts of nutrient loss from farms in recent years, NACHURS Alpine Solutions has been offering the right tools for farmers to add efficiency to their fertility programs with in-furrow fertilizer starters, fertigation products, foliar nutrition, and micronutrients for nearly every type of row crop, fruits, and vegetables.

Packaging

From their feed ingredients to their packaging, Kalmbach Feeds has worked hard to develop a culture built around sustainability and stewardship, making Kalmbach products and the customers who feed them more sustainable.

“Stewardship has been a part of the fabric of doing business for Kalmbach Feeds for years.

Our philosophy on stewardship is as human beings, community members, and citizens, we want to find a way to make a difference. We want to find fulfillment in the work we do, and we want to make the world a better place for our children, neighbors, and future generations. Part of being a good citizen means that we care about our environmental impact and that we use the resources God has given us more efficiently,” said Angela Moser, brand experience manager for Kalmbach Feeds. “As an agribusiness, we believe practicing good stewardship is critical in our industry. Our ability to produce food that is sustainable, safe, and cost effective will have a significant impact on global resource availability and the standard of living for billions of people. For each of our stewardship initiatives, we evaluate and measure our impact based on three criteria — these are the three Cs of stewardship: 1. Customer 2. Community 3. Company.”

As company decisions are being made at Kalmbach Feeds, each of these aspects of stewardship are considered. Is it good for the customers and consumers? Does this initiative improve the quality and performance of the products? Does it help create a better overall value and improve the standard of living for others? Does it help make products safer? Does it help the consumer improve their stewardship impact — for example, easier recycling?

“These are the types of questions that we ask ourselves to make sure these projects are not just about marketing, but truly improve our customers’ impact and experience,” Moser said.

The same process is repeated for the community and the company. Is it good for the environment and the community? How can waste, energy and resource use be reduced? Can we help animals be more efficient so that they don’t use as many resources? How do we more responsibly source our ingredients? How can the company maximize what is sourced from the U.S. to support local farmers? Is it good for the company? Does this improve the opportunities for company team members? Does it help improve efficiency and grow as an organization?

“Initiatives that aren’t good for the organization will not be sustained long term, and as a third-generation family business, we want to have a sustained stewardship impact for generations to come,” Moser said.

Within the framework of these three Cs, Kalmbach has undertaken a several initiatives.

“A couple of the initiatives we have highlighted are packaging changes that save a significant amount of paper waste, and also a concerted effort to reduce waste going to the landfill from our warehouse,” she said.

Fully eliminating paper tags from retail packaging would save 20,000 reams — five semi loads — of paper made from 1,200 trees a year. Rather than the paper tags, retail packaging is transitioning to feed ingredient labels either being printed on the bags or added as a label to the bags.

Kalmbach is also actively working to reduce warehouse waste and improving efficiency. The Kalmbach warehouse team looked at data from all aspects of their operations and focused on reducing the waste going to the landfill each month. The top three materials being sent to the landfill were shrink wrap, polypropylene bags, and corrugated cardboard. The team studied ways to reduce waste of these materials, and formed a partnership with a company that recycles or reuses these products, instead of sending them to the landfill. These efforts have cut 75% of waste going to the landfill and instead, turned it into reusable materials for other uses.

All of this work translates into a more sustainable company, but also improves the overall sustainability of the end users of Kalmbach Feeds products as well through the products they use.

Payments for practices

This year, ADM is launching a significant expansion of its re:generations regenerative agriculture program, ensuring more North American producers can earn additional income while making a positive impact on the environment and their soil’s health. After successfully enrolling more than 1 million acres in 2022, ADM is continuing to expand re:generations to cover 2 million acres in 2023, on its way to a goal of 4 million acres globally by 2025. The program received a $90 million Climate-Smart grant from USDA.

“With a value chain that stretches from more than 200,000 producers to downstream customers spanning food, feed, fuel, industrial and consumer products, ADM has an unparalleled ability to scale regenerative agriculture practices around the globe,” said Paul Scheetz, director of Climate Smart Ag Origination at ADM. “We’re proud of our groundbreaking work to support regenerative agriculture efforts, which was recognized with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through which we’ll direct more funding directly to producers. We know producers have always been stewards of the land, and that this is their lifeblood. We’re excited to continue to invest to expand our unique array of re:generations benefits to bring even more of them into the program. We are helping create new value for our producer customers, while they reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase soil carbon sequestration, improve water quality, and promote biodiversity.”

The expansion will offer producers spanning 18 states and three Canadian provinces financial incentives and technical support for implementing practices including cover cropping, improved nutrient management and conservation tillage. ADM is incentivizing multiple practices and performance outcomes spanning crops including corn, soybeans, peanuts and wheat. Producers who enroll receive premium payments ranging up to $25 an acre per year, and in some instances also receive an additional per bushel premium for grain delivered to ADM.

In Ohio, the program offers $25 per acre for cover crops new to the acreage in 2023 and $15 per acre for cover crops new to the acreage since 2018. For wheat acres, there is a $2 per acre payment for no-till or strip-till, a $3 payment for acres with a year-round living roots and a $5 per acre payment for nitrogen management according to specifications.

The effort is in cooperation with various technical assistance partners — including independent organizations such as American Farmland Trust and Ducks Unlimited — to provide producer support on a state-by-state basis, including explaining program details and qualifications, and providing guidance and education for successful practice implementation.

“It’s producers on a local level that are making huge strides for the planet and our collective future — and they’re strengthening their own businesses at the same time,” Scheetz said.

This summer, ADM program managers will be conducting in-person informational meetings, educating producers on the company’s program and offerings, and allowing them an opportunity to start the enrollment process as producers consider their cover crop plan for the fall and planting decisions for the spring of 2024. Full information on how to enroll, as well as other details, can be found at: admadvantage.com/regen/.

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