USA: General Mills supports transition into organic farmland
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General Mills announced a strategic sourcing agreement with Gunsmoke Farms LLC in South Dakota to convert 34,000 acres (almost 14,000 ha) of conventional farmland to certified organic land by 2020. The farm will grow certified organic wheat and other organic rotational crops that General Mills will use to make Annie's pasta products. The project should also advance regenerative soil health practices and create 3,000 acres of pollinator habitat.
It is the first time that General Mills invests in such a big acreage transition and according to chief supply chain officer John Church it is another step in growing the company´s organic supply chain, He also said: "We continue to seek ways to partner with land owners to make organic ingredients more accessible for existing and innovative new foods that our consumers have grown to expect." In 2016, General Mills announced a similar transition agreement with Organic Valley, the largest organic cooperative in the U.S., to help dairy farms convert to organic dairy production.
Healthy organic soils can combat climate change. Photo Oekolandbau.de
Advancing Regenerative Practices
"We recognize that agriculture practices contribute to some of today's most pressing sustainability challenges, and we are hopeful that regenerative agriculture practices can provide large-scale solutions for restoring healthy soil and a healthy ecosystem," said Carla Vernón, president of the Annie's operating unit. "Our brands like Annie's, Cascadian Farm and Epic are committed to improving soil health by supporting farmers to adopt and advance regenerative farming practices. Together with growers, we want to revive our ecosystems, reduce levels of global greenhouse gases, and produce food to sustain a growing population for generations to come", she emphasised.
Soil health is a growing focus for General Mills sustainability efforts. General Mills has contributed more than $3 million to partners advancing soil health on U.S. agricultural lands, such as The Nature Conservancy, the Soil Health Institute, the Soil Health Partnership and the National Wheat Foundation. This includes research and education outreach on soil health practices to benefit 125,000 farmers in the Great Plains States.
A Leading Producer of Organic Foods
General Mills has made sizeable investments to meet growing consumer interest in natural and organic foods. Today, the company is the third largest U.S. producer of natural and organic foods with brands including Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, Liberté and Annie's. The company expects its natural and organic portfolio in North America to reach $1.5 billion in net sales by 2020.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the U.S., acreage devoted to organic agriculture is about one percent of total cropland. But increasing demand for organic products continues to outpace the supply of organic ingredients. Over the last decade, General Mills has been working to increase the organic acreage from which it sources ingredients by 160 percent and has become one of the top five organic ingredient purchasers in the North American packaged food sector.