EP Monthly

EP Insight, March 2020 | General Mills – a Ground-Up Approach to Regenerative Farming

The company behind Cheerios and Nature Valley Granola bars is taking a ground-up approach to agricultural production; a move that General Mills feels will help to boost profit margins, increase yields, and improve product quality for farmers while combating one of their greatest environmental threats: deteriorating soil quality.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that we only have around 60 years of productive soil remaining, having already degraded a third of the world’s top soil. Without new methods of farming that preserve soil grade, we’ll risk mounting agricultural challenges in the face of a growing world population. Through their use of regenerative agriculture, General Mills is implementing an enduring solution meant to reinvigorate top soil.

Regenerative agriculture is a method of farming which aids in the preservation and betterment of soil through techniques such as crop rotation, low/no tillage, and livestock integration, amongst other things. The resulting system absorbs more carbon into the soil than traditional farming while emitting lower levels of greenhouse gases. It also helps to stabilize the variability of crop production.

General Mills recognizes the necessity of more efficient soil use. The company buys the bulk of their oats from three regions in the northern Plains of the Midwest, putting them at risk of potential oat shortages if problems arise in any of those regions. Regenerative agriculture could potentially reduce the variability of crop production, alleviating concerns for both General Mills and the farmers they work with.

Not only does General Mills support the adaptation of regenerative agriculture, they actively advocate for their farmers to utilize regenerative practices. In 2018, General Mills announced their intent to turn 34,000 acres of conventional South Dakota farm land to organic land by 2020, firstly for the purpose of training farmers on regenerative agriculture. This is only the beginning — by 2030, General Mills expects to employ farmers using regenerative agriculture practices across one million acres of farmland.

Furthermore, General Mills has committed to the sustainable sourcing of 100% of their top 10 ingredients by 2020. This commitment to go beyond the industry standards in sustainability demonstrates General Mills’ effort to mitigate the effects of climate change. The company’s clear intentionality of this commitment further exemplifies their goals to implement innovative solutions that lead to more sustainable business practices across all levels of their supply chain.

At Terra Alpha, we know that soil (literally) underpins our societies and economies across the globe. Investors, business leaders, and stakeholder organizations must work to develop the protocols and tools to allow for better management of the planet’s soil. Our report Dirt Matters, available on our resources page, provides more insights into the important role of healthy soil in a sustainable economy.