General Mills Believes Farmers Have a Massive Role To Play in Solving Climate Change

General Mills Believes Farmers Have a Massive Role To Play in Solving Climate Change

By Laurie Bedord
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.@GeneralMills believes farmers have a massive role to play in solving #ClimateChange via @SuccessfulFarm

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Wednesday, August 26, 2020 - 10:00am

CAMPAIGN: General Mills | Sustainability

CONTENT: Article

Healthy soil is critical in mitigating climate change. Yet, our soil is not healthy. Every year, the United States loses 10 billion tons of fertile soil, which is far faster than nature can replenish it. When you consider 95% of the food we eat is grown in soil, this fact is alarming. 

“Agriculture is often fingered as a major culprit in climate change,” says Kevin O’Donnell, global director, sourcing & operations sustainability at General Mills. “We strongly believe farmers have a massive role to play in being a part of the solution. In fact, we don’t believe the world can adequately address climate change – and hit the targets it has set in order to avoid the most catastrophic and volatile impacts of climate change – without engaging agriculture.”

Successful Farming recently had the opportunity to speak with O’Donnell ahead of a panel discussion he’ll participate in called Soil Health: Can Farmers Become a Part of the Climate Change Solution? The session is part of the virtual World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit being held September 15 and 16, 2020.

SF: How does regenerative agriculture fit into General Mills’ definition of sustainability?

KO: It’s an evolution. The story began about five years ago when General Mills started to meet some of the Renaissance farmers, as we call them, who have been involved – some for as long as a quarter century – in what today is called regenerative farming. 

While we were always aware of it, we began to discover the incredible power of improved soil health to do so many of the things we were trying to accomplish with our sustainability initiatives – improve water stewardship, reduce climate impact, create stronger supply chain resiliency, increase biodiversity, all while improving farmer profitability. Over time, General Mills has been a major corporate investor in soil health including funding the Nature Conservancy reThink Soil Health Roadmap initiative. We have also invested in crops like Kernza, a perennial grain and wild relative of annual wheat, whose deep roots show promise to benefit the planet by capturing carbon from the air and storing it in the ground.

We believe soil health is the cornerstone of regenerative agriculture, which is a number of key principles, that when stacked together, really unlock and unleash some incredible power. Simply put, regenerative agriculture is about seeing the farm as more of an ecosystem and viewing common issues like pests, weeds, disease, and nutrient deficiency not just as problems to be patched with a synthetic input, but instead as a symptom of an unhealthy ecosystem.

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