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Tyson Foods, EDF launch partnership on sustainability

New initiatives include scaling use of ag tech to generate economic, environmental benefits.

Tyson Foods Inc. and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have announced a new partnership to develop and deploy initiatives that support Tyson’s sustainability strategy and help meet increasing consumer demand for more sustainably grown food.

The partnership’s first project focuses on land stewardship and aims for a pilot and to scale agricultural practices on 500,000 acres of corn that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improve water quality and maximize farmer profitability. This effort will also help Tyson meet its land stewardship goal of working with farmers to improve environmental practices across 2 million acres of corn production by 2020.

The pilot will use cloud-based agricultural technologies from MyFarms and Farmers Business Network (FBN), both of which collect information on agricultural production practices while protecting data privacy. Insights from the analysis of the data will inform sustainability practices at the field level.

“If the largest U.S. food company can prove the viability of farming practices that are good for the planet and for profits, it would be a game changer,” noted Jenny Ahlen, director of the EDF+Business supply chain program. “We’re using scientific analysis to measure the benefits of sustainable farming practices, help companies like Tyson evaluate the impact of their sustainability initiatives and inspire transparency across the supply chain.”

MyFarms and FBN will work to enroll farmers in the initial sustainable agriculture project. FBN will be providing this opportunity to its 7,600 members, who account for nearly 30 million acres and are looking for new ways to continue their commitment to sustainable agriculture. Farmers enrolled in MyFarms will also have the opportunity to pilot a new scientific method, based on extensive scientific research compiled by EDF, for calculating nitrogen loss. Excessive nitrogen application is a primary water quality concern, contributes to agricultural GHG emissions and is a source of lost income for farmers.

“Developing a sustainable food system is important to our business and the planet,” said Justin Whitmore, executive vice president of continuous improvement and chief sustainability officer for Tyson Foods. “Joining forces with EDF enables us to bring together the best of our joint expertise in supply chains and sustainable agriculture and deliver value to growers, businesses and the environment.”

Other features of the partnership include:

●    Analyzing sustainability data on farmland, as part of Tyson’s land stewardship commitment, and

●    Publicly communicating progress and best practices that surface from pilot projects.

“Farmers are the most important stewards of the land, and it’s vital they have tools and markets to farm sustainably and be profitable doing so,” FBN co-founder Charles Baron said. “FBN is committed to finding new opportunities for crop farmers to develop markets for sustainable practices.”

Chris Fennig, managing director of MyFarms, said, “MyFarms believes that farmers have both the desire and the opportunity to learn from one another. We also recognize the value of their long-term business relationships, so we’ve built a set of cloud-based tools that enable advisors to better inform their farmer clients about opportunities to improve economic and environmental outcomes at the farm gate."

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