Cargill Chairman and CEO David MacLennan praised farmers, food workers and ag workers for stepping up in early 2020 when the world was shutting down in response to the unknowns surrounding COVID-19.
"There was a lot of fear," MacLennan said, and questions too. "Where's our food gonna come from? How are we going to make sure it gets to the tables and the stores and the restaurants where people can consume it? Our farmers stepped up, they are the heroes of COVID-19 and it showed us how resilient the food supply system is and what we need in terms of courage and vision in order to make sure that the ag supply, the food supply system continues to work, despite intense strain."
MacLennan spoke June 4 during the 125th annual convention of the National Grain and Feed Association. Nearly 400 people gathered in Colorado Springs for the convention, which included online and in-person components.
“Our 125th anniversary themes are meant to be far-reaching and transformative – it will take more than just one year of work to achieve them," said National Grain and Feed Association Chairman JoAnn Brouillette, president and managing partner of Demeter Lp in Fowler, Ind.
Throughout the year, NGFA will celebrate “Transforming America’s Harvest” with initiatives and projects that focus on the future of the grain, feed and processing industry and how to best position it to continue enhancing the growth and economic performance of U.S. agriculture in a global open market environment, Brouillette said.
MacLennan echoed the positive theme, while acknowledging the challenges of the past year.
"We kept food moving, we kept getting it to where it was needed, and the resilience of the food supply system was really amazing," MacLennan said. "We did do big things and we're going to continue to do big things."
Many criticize agriculture, he said, but he sees agriculture as part of the solution.
Cargill has invested in one solution - regenerative ag. The company provides farmers access to training and supports voluntary, farmer-led adoption of regenerative agriculture across 10 million acres of North American farmland by 2030. Regenerative agriculture is a type of agriculture in which farmers rebuild soil organic matter and restore soil biodiversity to improve soil health and sequester carbon.
"I think the greatest challenge facing the ag industry today is sustainably feeding a world that is growing rapidly," MacLennan said. "The changes we make at the roots of our supply chain will deliver the greatest impact – by reducing emissions, improving water quality, sequestering carbon, and building up the resilience of our soils for the next generation. Companies can set as many climate goals as we want. But without the support and leadership of farmers, none of it will happen. They've got to lead the way and we’re here to partner with them on this important, ongoing effort.”
Farmers know inaction is not an option, he said.
"We as an industry have to reduce our impact. We have to be more thoughtful about how much water we use, how much greenhouse gas emission is there . . . how can we be better stewards of the environment."