Retailers Pivotal To Farmer Adoption Of Conservation Ag, Says Research

08:15AM Mar 06, 2020
Successful adoption of conservation ag practices is underway by farmers and retailers.
( Farm Journal Image )

Building trust in food begins with empowering farmers through one of the largest and most diverse conservation- and sustainability-focused public-private partnerships in our nation’s history: America’s Conservation Ag Movement. To find the latest news and resources related to the Movement, visit

Kinsie Rayburn is a Conservation Knowledge Officer with Farm Journal's Trust In Food. Learn more at

“I would say that precision ag has gotten more precise. So we’re selling products now by the ounce that we used to sell by the gallon, and we’re applying them in very small doses.” –Anne Cook, The Andersons Inc.

U.S. farm productivity increased by 178% between 1948 and 2015, according to a 2018 USDA report, while total land used for agricultural production fell 24%. Modern agricultural systems development such as mechanization, biotechnology, and crop nutrient management solutions played a large role in the productivity boon USDA identified. However, along with the growth in productivity has come other challenges—water quality issues, declines in pollinator habitat, and soil erosion, to name a few.

Key to mitigating risk and firmly ingraining agricultural resilience into farm operations across the nation is the increased adoption rates of conservation agricultural practices, which research has shown can improve environmental outcomes associated with agricultural production. To scale such practices on farms, growers need increased access to informed professionals, such as ag retailers, who can provide the education, training and technical support services required.

Research conducted in 2019 by Trust In Food, a Farm Journal initiative, in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), found that ag retailers are uniquely suited to play an influential role in the continuous improvement of conservation across the agricultural value chain.

According to the research, ag retailers:

•    Have the tools and training to help farmers make data-informed production decisions. “We can say to a grower, ‘The green on this yield map is where it only cost you $1.90 to produce a bushel of corn, but the red is where it’s costing you $5.50.’ That’s how we turn data into actual results and possibilities for the grower.” –Ashley Schmeling, Central Farm Service

•    Can help farmers meet the needs of future agricultural markets. “That’s the big point going forward: We’re going to have to have traceability of crops that goes back to sustainable practices, or food suppliers are not going to buy them.” –Tim Mundorf, Central Valley Ag

•    Can help educate critical stakeholder groups, such as lenders and financial institutions. “We actually encourage our customers to bring their loan providers to some of our tours out on the research farm during the summer, and we have winter meetings where we really recap a lot of that data. We encourage the customers to bring their lenders to those events.” –Cat Salois, The McGregor Company

•    Can help farmers get ahead of new or potential regulations. “If we in ag, the farmer and the ag retailer, don’t start taking the environment [issues] seriously, there will be new regulations sent our way quickly  [Sustainability] is the difference between whether farmers are going to be allowed to manage and farm their farms the way they want to, versus a state or federal office placing a bunch of mandates on them.” –Ben Hushon, The Mill

The full report presents a clear business case for ag retailers, exploring how they can dramatically transform their businesses to meet the needs of their grower-customers, the broader agri-food value chain, their local communities and the natural resources the world depends upon.

The time for proactively seeking out ways to improve the reputation and impact of the agricultural sector is now, and the full report showcases how some leading ag retailers are getting the job done.

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