Throughout Environmental Defense Fund’s history and my nearly two decades of working on our agriculture team, collaborations with unlikely allies have proven to be a powerful, necessary way to unleash transformative sustainability solutions.
It’s in that spirit that EDF has partnered with the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), which represents the interests of more than 300,000 corn farmers, to address one of the most pressing challenges facing our food and agriculture system – how to improve environmental outcomes while optimizing crop productivity and economic performance.
This partnership marks the first time an environmental nonprofit and commodity crop association have joined forces at this scope and scale. Here’s how it came about and what we’ve committed to tackle together.
The power of unexpected partnerships
In NCGA, we found an organization open to trying new things, looking out for long-term agricultural resilience and interested in collaborating with nontraditional stakeholders.
Our collaboration began with small, discrete efforts to learn from each other and build trust. This grew into our advisory role in the Soil Health Partnership, which today spans more than 120 demonstration farms in 12 states and includes extensive outreach to farmers and their business partners.
EDF and NCGA both wanted to build on this foundation, so we signed a memorandum of understanding that will allow us to tackle larger initiatives.
An ambitious agreement
Through this partnership, EDF and NCGA will accelerate solutions for high priority goals like healthy soils, clean water, climate stability, yield resilience, habitat for at-risk species and economic viability for farmers.
The partnership agreement includes work in the areas of data and measurement, on-farm engagement, agricultural finance, supply chain engagement, public policy, and outreach and communication. Specifically, we aim to:
- Increase the use and value of emerging data technology for documenting progress and informing decision-making for long-term operational resilience.
- Reach more farmers about how and why to implement conservation practices, and increase farmer and farm adviser knowledge of and access to tools and practices that help achieve economic and environmental goals.
- Engage the agricultural value chain in programs that benchmark current on-farm practices and deliver increased value to farmers who adopt conservation practices.
- Explore ways that traditional financial institutions such as banking and crop insurance can reward farmers for conservation practices that reduce yield risk, build resilience to extreme weather and increase land asset values.
- Support federal policies and USDA conservation programs that enable farmers to improve soil health, water quality and climate resilience through voluntary, collaborative approaches.
Collaborating with farmers and crop associations is key to advancing agricultural sustainability and resilience. Agricultural allies can help identify conservation solutions that benefit both farmers’ bottom lines and the environment. They can also help inform the policies and market strategies that can take those solutions to scale.
In discussing the partnership with NCGA’s CEO Jon Doggett, he made a comment that captured my excitement for this partnership. He said, “I’m most excited for the things we have not even thought about yet.” So am I.