PRESS RELEASE: Leading food and beverage companies launch agricultural coalition to scale up agronomic support for soil building practices across the U.S., beginning in North Dakota

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General Mills, Anheuser-Busch, PepsiCo, Unilever, King Arthur Baking, and others give rise to paradigm-changing Trusted Advisor Partnership

Fargo, North Dakota (November 17, 2022) – A consortium of leading food and beverage companies announced today the commitment to expand regenerative agriculture across the U.S. through the formation of a robust network of independent farmer advisory services. Enabled by the collective investment of PepsiCo, King Arthur Baking, General Mills, Anheuser-Busch, and Unilever, along with $1.6M in grant funding from the Walmart Foundation to Sustainable Food Lab, the Trusted Advisor Partnership aims to amplify the adoption of profitable stewardship practices, and will focus initially on North Dakota, where wind and water erosion have stripped the state of 50% of its topsoil in some areas – resulting in annual productivity losses numbering in the tens of millions of dollars over the past 50 years.

Dr. Abbey Wick, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Associate Professor, Extension Soil Health Specialist, and co-lead for the project, said: “With a wide variety of commodities grown within our borders and a strong existing base of Certified Crop Advisors (CCAs), North Dakota is the ideal region to demonstrate the critical importance of connecting farmers with independent information delivered by trusted advisors – information on the conservation ag practices that build not only better soil but a better bottom line for our state and tribal producers.” In concert with colleagues – CCAs Jason Hanson (dba Rock and Roll Agronomy) and Dr. Lee Briese (Centrol Ag Consulting), monitoring & evaluation consultant Jean Haley of Haley Consulting Services, and Dr. Jason Harmon (NDSU Professor) – Wick is creating and delivering an interactive practicum that addresses a wide range of topics, including reduced tillage, cover cropping, and integrated pest management. Serving as project administrator, Sustainable Food Lab, a 501c3 that specializes in designing place-based ag sustainability strategy and farmer engagement programs, will simultaneously work with company partners to develop a set of financial incentives that flows through the program and further extends regenerative agronomy across thousands of acres. “We’re excited to be taking the wraps off this cross-sector effort, especially on the heels of an unprecedented investment in our nation’s ag economy from the USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities fund. Dollars alone are not enough; there is, and will continue to be, a pressing need for more agronomic talent to de-risk the transition to regenerative. By syncing farmers with unbiased technical support and customized supply chain programs, we believe this project has the potential to accelerate the momentum around soil health and whole-of-farm stewardship in the U.S.,” added Elizabeth Reaves, Senior Director at Sustainable Food Lab.

This investment in leading-edge agronomy underscores the pivotal role of trusted advisors, like CCAs, in helping farmers navigate complex management decisions and challenging climatic conditions. Companies involved in the North Dakota Trusted Advisor Partnership recognize the power of this relationship to forge a more resilient farming system:

Margaret Henry, Senior Director of Sustainability, PepsiCo: “Our primary goal at PepsiCo is to keep farmers farming. We want to help de-risk soil health management by supporting efforts like this one to ensure that farmers have the trusted advice they need.”

Steve Rosenzweig, PhD, Agriculture Science Lead, General Mills: “An element of our regenerative agriculture programs that farmers have resonated most with is the one-on-one support from knowledgeable and trusted advisors. We are excited to partner with NDSU, leading crop advisors, and many like-minded industry peers on this collective effort in North Dakota, a key state where we source ingredients for our products, to support farmers and accelerate regenerative agriculture.”

Nicholas Mylet, Global Director, Sustainable Agriculture, Anheuser-Busch InBev: “Cross-sector collaboration is critical to help create systems change. This initiative is a key opportunity to work alongside peers and the local farming ecosystem to help build resilience for people and planet. That’s how we keep beer inclusive, natural, and local.”

Brad Heald, Director of Mill Relations, King Arthur Baking: “Our future depends on a movement toward farming practices that positively impact the land and the people who farm it. At King Arthur Baking Company, we know we must partner with farmers and increase their access to technical assistance and support to achieve our goal of sourcing 100% of our flour from regeneratively grown wheat by 2030. The North Dakota Trusted Advisor Partnership is an integral part of providing this support and will serve as a model for other regions to follow. We are grateful to be a part of this group and look forward to the impact it will have.”

Stefani Millie Grant, Senior Manager, External Affairs & Sustainability, Unilever: “To protect and regenerate soil, we need everyone on board: that means bringing farmers, partners, and trusted advisors together. This program will help to ensure farmers have the technical support they need to try new practices to improve the resiliency of their farms, which is an important way that Unilever is investing in the future of our food systems.”

Julie Gehrki, VP and COO, Walmart Foundation: “Supporting farmers in building soil health is critical to Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s commitment to help protect, restore, and more sustainably manage 50 million acres of land by 2030. With grant funding from the Walmart Foundation, Sustainable Food Lab and project partners will train and equip crop advisors in North Dakota and Minnesota to help their farmer clients adopt practices that improve soil health and build resiliency and long-term productivity in this critical landscape.”

To date, the North Dakota Trusted Advisor Partnership has hosted workshops and distributed preliminary surveys to gauge baseline practice adoption. There are plans to test and iterate on training modules in upcoming forums in North Dakota, such as the DIRT Workshop and Agronomy on Ice. By the end of 2025, the project intends to reach 300,000 acres with its site-specific, logistics-based soil health training. An ultimate outcome will be a plug-and-play model for technical assistance that is translatable to other agricultural geographies and contexts, including tribal communities. In addition to expanding the number of participating CCAs from 10 to 30 by 2024, the initiative is actively looking to bring other contributors and fiscal supporters into the fold, with several other collaborators set to join by year-end.

Visit www.trustedadvisorpartnership.com to learn more.

Agronomists, corporations, tribal groups, or nonprofits and environmental organizations with an interest in getting involved are highly encouraged to reach out to either Elizabeth Reaves ([email protected]) or Abbey Wick ([email protected]).

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