The ADM/Unilever Soybean Sustainability Program continues to gain momentum. It was highlighted last week at the Farm Progress Show at Boone, Iowa. Max Armstrong, co-host of "This Week in Agribusiness" TV show and "The Morning Show" on WGN Radio in Chicago interviewed Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, among others, on Tuesday in the ADM tent. Conservation and sustainability efforts of Iowa soybean farmers were hot topics.
ADM is procuring sustainably-raised soybeans from Iowa for Unilever and that topic was of particular interest. ADM processes soybeans at its Des Moines plant and sells the oil to Unilever, which uses it to make Hellmann's mayonnaise. "It's a great effort between ADM and Unilever to tell the public what farmers are doing," Armstrong said.
"We're trying to improve water quality and we have the tools to do it," Northey added. "This takes soybeans from the fields to grocery store shelves."
Farmers get a 10-cent-per-bushel premium for enrolled acres
The ADM/Unilever Soybean Sustainability Program -- a cooperative effort with Field-to- Market and the Iowa Soybean Association -- is in its second year. The program documents responsible farming practices already being used, such as precision agriculture, no-till, grass waterways and other conservation practices. Forty-four farmers enrolled 42,000 acres in the program last year. This year, the goal is to quadruple the number of enrolled acres. Participating farmers receive a 10-cent premium per bushel for enrolled acres.
Jim Pirolli, ADM Des Moines Commercial Manager, said the progressive atmosphere of the Farm Progress Show is the perfect place to promote the program. Tens of thousands of people attend the show each year. "The momentum is really positive," Pirolli said. "People are reaching out to us. We're a lot closer to this year's goal compared to this time last year."
Growers quality for program by following certain practices
Farmers qualify for the program by working through the U.S. Soybean Sustainability Assurance Protocol and use the Field-to-Market Calculator. Developed by the United Soybean Board, American Soybean Association, U.S. Soybean Export Council and the soybean checkoff, the protocol defines sustainability as "being able to meet the needs of the present while improving the ability of future generations to meet their needs."
Crop management information is entered into the Field to Market Calculator, which provides feedback on a farms' impact on natural resources like soil and water. The information helps illustrate that farmers maintain management records and are addressing resource concerns like water quality, soil erosion and wildlife habitat.
Unilever, and consumers, they believe, want to understand where their food is coming from and how it's produced. The sustainability program fits in with Unilever's Sustainable Living Plan -- an effort to double sales, cut its environmental footprint in half and source only sustainable agricultural commodities.
Farmers interested in signing up for the 2015 program
"It's all about continuous improvement," said Stefani Grant of Unilever, an international food maker. "For us this is a very exciting program and we have a lot of momentum behind it." Northey and others said the program is an excellent way to track environmental progress, especially water quality efforts set forth by the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. Iowa soybean farmer and ISA member Greg Van Dyke, who farms near Grinnell, said the program does just that. "It's a very easy program. It helped us be more efficient and sustainable," he said. "What we're learning is very educational."
Farmers deliver enrolled soybeans into the ADM Des Moines supply chain. Farmers interested in signing up for the ADM/Unilever Soybean Sustainability Program and learning about delivery options can contact ADM Merchandiser Maree Deventer at 515- 263-3266 or [email protected].