Sustainability is a widely discussed topic throughout the industry. One organization that is leading the way in sustainability efforts is Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. We sat down with Betsy Hickman, Vice President of Stakeholder Engagement and Implementation for Field to Market for an explanation on what this organization is doing and why.
What is Field to Market?
"Field to Market is a diverse, multi-stakeholder initiative. It brings together grower organizations, agribusinesses, brands & retailers, conservation groups, universities, and public sector partners to focus on defining, measuring, and advancing sustainability of food, fiber, and fuel production in the US," explained Betsy.
Most folks in agriculture know that we face the challenge of feeding, clothing, and transporting a world of 9 billion people across the globe by 2050 while still conserving the world's finite resources. This is no easy task.
According to Betsy, finding solutions to sustainable food production has become increasingly complex as US agriculture needs to double its agricultural output to keep pace with rising demand, all in the face of changing climate and the knowledge that agriculture depends on finite natural resources. Meeting this challenge requires collaboration and cooperation among all of us. That's where Field to Market® comes in.
"One of the key steps is defining a common sustainability framework that can be universally adopted by the entire value chain, providing agreed upon definitions, indicators, and metrics for sustainable agriculture that farmers and the supply chain can utilize to evaluate continuous improvement," said Betsy.
Another challenge of meeting the increase in demand of food, fiber, and fuel in an increasing global population is how the supply chain works together pre-competitively to encourage measured, science-based continuous improvement of commodity crop production at the field and landscape level.
"Field to Market® is working to catalyze continuous improvement by establishing goals and broadly applicable metrics to engage and enable stakeholders across the supply chain to work together in delivering sustainable outcomes. For example, our membership (115 organizations across the Alliance) has pledged their support for sustainability by driving sustained improvements in land use efficiency, water quality, water use efficiency, and energy use efficiency, while delivering sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and soil erosion," Betsy explained.
To achieve these outcomes, Field to Market® seeks to engage 20% of productive acres of US commodity cropland - which is the equivalent of 50 million acres across the country - in their Supply Chain Sustainability Program by 2020.
A key hallmark of the program is benchmarking sustainability performance, something that Field to Market® is best known for. Tools like the Fieldprint Calculator® help farmers understand how their management practices impact different sustainability outcomes. In other words, it allows them to benchmark their performance against their peers at regional, state, and national levels.
"The Fieldprint Calculator® provides an "Opportunity to connect [growers] with knowledge and insights to focus on the changes for the next growing season in order to drive continuous improvement in sustainability outcomes," Betsy explained.
Membership process for Field to Market
One of the basic requirements for a Field to Market membership is an involvement in commodity agriculture. If organizations are able to demonstrate an active role in the commodity supply chain, they can submit a membership application.
Field to Market then visits with the organizations to learn more about their sustainability goals and priorities to help them shape a participation commitment in support of Field to Market's mission and goals. The application is then presented to Field to Market's Board of Directors - a governing body within the Alliance that has equal representation from the grower sector, agribusiness sector, brands & retailer sector, conservation sector, and affiliate sector (academia/public sector partners). The Board then reviews the application and decides if the organization moves forward in the membership process.
How can growers find out about it?
Growers can participate on multiple levels. They can access the sustainability metrics from the Fieldprint® Platform either online through the Fieldprint® Calculator or through associated farm management software like Morning Farm Report® which integrates Field to Market's sustainability metrics and algorithms. Either option enables a grower to better understand on a personal level how their management decisions impact sustainability performance. They may then use that common measurement framework as a tool to document and demonstrate their sustainability story.
Growers can also participate in Fieldprint® Projects - collaborative projects across the supply chain where Field to Market members come together with growers around a specific geography and a specific crop or set of crops to partner with producers on a journey of continuous improvement. Betsy explains, "In these projects, a farmer has the ability to compare performance against not only the state and national benchmarks, provided through tools like the Fieldprint Calculator or Morning Farm Report, but also anonymously benchmark their performance against peers in their same region. This is where greater learning and analysis comes to bear as that farmer is able to make an apple to apple comparison with a peer maybe 10 miles down the road. This anonymous comparison may show that a grower is outperforming his or her peers or why another peer is maintaining or increasing yields with much less energy use, for instance."
How is the program doing?
"We have over 2,130 farmers actively utilizing the Fieldprint® Platform as a common measurement framework, and there are many members engaged in supply chain collaboration through more than 60 Fieldprint® Projects in 25 states across the country. In these projects, downstream brands and retailers are engaging upstream with the supply chain as they look to communicate the progress they're making in meeting their very public commitments to improved environmental outcomes to stakeholders and customers," said Betsy.
Field to Market's program creates an opportunity for the supply chain to partner together to provide greater visibility and transparency into the sustainability of commodity crop production. It is common that a grower who drops their grain off at an elevator often doesn't know where it ends up. On the flipside, a company doesn't always know where their grain is coming from. These Fieldprint® Projects provide brands and retailers with greater visibility into the sustainability of key sourcing regions, and also helps growers take pride and recognize the role they play in putting products like breakfast cereals on our tables each day.
Helping growers be more productive and profitable
According to Betsy, "The common measurement framework offered by Field to Market was built on a foundation of education and awareness, so producers improve profitability while preserving the planet's natural resources. It provides real learning and feedback. A Fieldprint® analysis helps farmers understand the opportunities for greater resource efficiency, as well as benefits for the environment and sustainability. With this tool, farmers can document and demonstrate continuous improvement while also realizing the benefits from a productivity and profitability standpoint through greater efficiency."
morning farm report integration with the fieldprint® calculator
"Traditionally, the Field to Market sustainability measurement framework has only been available through the Fieldprint® Calculator," said Betsy. Now, with the integration into tools like Morning Farm Report, we're able to streamline a lot of the data that the farmer is already collecting to complete the analysis, so there's no burden of duplicating data entry."
As a member in Field to Market, Agrible is proud to support this mission and to be recognized as one of Field to Market's first qualified data management partners. By successfully integrating the sustainability metrics and algorithms of the Fieldprint® Platform into Morning Farm Report's sustainability programs, farmers can simultaneously evaluate productivity, profitability, and sustainability options as part of their planning process.
We are excited to be working with Field to Market to help them achieve their goal of engaging 50 million acres of commodity crop production in their Supply Chain Sustainability Program by 2020. With the integration into Morning Farm Report, now more farmers have the opportunity to participate in documenting and demonstrating their sustainability performance utilizing the industry's most accepted and recognized sustainability measurement framework. More details on Field to Market's program can be found on their website.