Smart tools help North American growers demonstrate sustainability

Farmers have always sought smarter and better ways to use their land,
and those efforts have resulted in a significant reduction in environmental impacts related to production agriculture over the past several decades.

Thanks to collaborative efforts in both the U.S. and Canada, growers can now actually measure and quantify the success of their efforts. These programs allow farmers to better understand and communicate how management choices affect overall sustainability performance and operational efficiency.

New tools that have been developed by these programs provide an opportunity for farmers to assess how they compare with their peers and to identify areas where they’re excelling and opportunities for continuous improvement. Engagement is growing as farmers realize that the benefits of managing for sustainability not only produces positive results for the environment but also improves productivity and profitability.


Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture

In the U.S., Field to Market brings together a diverse group of stakeholders to focus on defining, measuring and advancing the sustainability of food, fiber and fuel production. Their Fieldprint® Calculator is a free and confidential tool developed to help corn, cotton, rice, wheat, potato and soybean growers better understand how management choices impact overall sustainability performance and operational efficiency.

“Helping farmers demonstrate and document continuous improvement against key sustainability outcomes is the cornerstone of our program,” said Rod Snyder, president of Field to Market, in an interview with Smart Talk. “On a national scale, Field to Market has analyzed sustainability trends over time for U.S. corn, cotton, potato, rice, soybean and wheat production. Using publicly available data, we’ve evaluated the environmental performance of commodity crop production for the past three decades.

“U.S. agriculture has a great story to tell. Our report shows that all crops have demonstrated progress across five environmental indicators–land use, soil erosion, irrigation water applied, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions per unit of production.”


Canadian Field Print Initiative

In Canada, The Canadian Field Print Initiative is a partnership of grower associations including Canadian Canola Growers Association, Pulse Canada, Grain Farmers of Ontario, CropLife Canada, Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers, Canadian Fertilizer Institute and others focused on the development of market-driven, science-based metrics and tools for sustainability measurement.

Denis Trémorin, Director of Sustainability with Pulse Canada, said the Canadian Field Print Calculator project is gaining momentum. And that’s good news for both growers and consumers.

“I think the common ground seems to be that we all want to see more efficient agriculture, both in terms of environmental and economic performance,” Trémorin said. “What this tool does is provide the means to translate the impact farming practices are having on those efficiencies.”

Growers have always responded to the market, said Trémorin, and today’s consumer is driving demand for sustainably sourced products. While these tools can’t guarantee growers a market advantage, the ability to demonstrate sustainable practices is simply becoming part of the new business model.

On that note, the Canadian Field Print Initiative has caught the attention of General Mills and other large food companies who are interested in pilot projects. And Kellogg Company has announced a commitment to responsibly source the top 10 ingredients and materials used in their food production by 2020.