United Suppliers, Smithfield Foods Partner To Advance Precision Agriculture In Supply Chain

Smithfield Foods, Inc. and United Suppliers, Inc., have announced a collaboration to advance on-farm conservation practices and the use of innovative precision agriculture tools across Smithfield’s sourcing regions in Iowa and Missouri. Smithfield’s initiative will focus on deployment of SUSTAIN, United Suppliers’ sustainability platform, with agronomic and sustainability guidance from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The ultimate goal of the project is to work with farmers along all points along the food supply chain to reduce fertilizer runoff, safeguard the environment, and ensure farm productivity.

“At Smithfield, we are committed to sustainability, and to finding solutions where we can both make the environment better and create value,” said Kraig Westerbeek, vice president of environment and support operations at Smithfield Foods’ Hog Production Division. “Farmers spend up to half of their input costs on fertilizer, so keeping more nutrients where they belong helps growers save money and improve yields. We’re excited to offer the SUSTAIN platform to our Midwest growers because it’s a true win-win.”

United Suppliers is a cooperative of 560 locally owned and controlled agricultural retailers who operate nearly 2,500 retail locations, and who serve growers spanning 45 million acres in the U.S. and Canada. United Suppliers developed the SUSTAIN platform, in coordination with EDF, which combines a set of proven, effective technologies, practices and products that improve nutrient use efficiency and reduce soil erosion while enhancing productivity.

“We’re excited to announce this collaboration at today’s grower meeting hosted by South Central Cooperative, one of United Suppliers’ authorized SUSTAIN retailers,” said Matt Carstens, vice president of United Suppliers. “This is a great example of how food companies, ag retailers, and growers can work together to achieve success in the realm of ag sustainability that ultimately meets the demands of the consumer.”

Although fertilizer is essential for producing food across the globe, on average 50 percent of nutrients applied are not taken up by crops. The resulting fertilizer runoff can cause water pollution and transform into air pollution in the form of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas nearly 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

This collaboration will:

  • Optimize nutrient use efficiency and improve soil health in Smithfield’s Midwest sourcing regions.
  • Expand the reach of the SUSTAIN platform in the Smithfield sourcing region to help United Suppliers meet its goal of 10 million acres enrolled in SUSTAIN by 2020.
  • Protect yields while reducing nutrient and soil loss, thereby achieving greenhouse gas emissions reductions and water quality improvements.
  • Improve the resiliency of the U.S. food production system.

Smithfield is the first protein company to use this program, and joins General Mills, Campbell’s Soup, and Unilever in using the platform in sustainable sourcing efforts.

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