Play Ball with Sustainable Farming
The spring rains come and gullywashers cut channels in your fields down to the subsoil. The run-off can carry away precious topsoil and standing water can harm the crop. Wet springs tend to happen more regularly in U.S. farm fields. That’s why now is a perfect time to do something before next spring arrives.
In this month’s episode of In the Driver’s Seat, ADM Sustainability Manager Michelle French shares insight into current sustainable farming programs and tips for how you can get involved.
Today there are several ways to help preserve soil health and get reimbursed for some of the costs. It’s part of ADM’s involvement with Field to Market, an alliance of ag companies focused on sustainable farming. These programs bring you resources—wherever you farm—to adopt practices that help you better manage water and soil, keeping you in the game for the long haul.
“I like to tell people that if you think of sustainable ag as baseball, then Field to Market is the rule book,” says French. “In baseball, it doesn’t matter if you go to see the Cardinals in St. Louis or the Cubs in Chicago, everyone plays baseball by the same rules. Field to Market gives us all a level playing field, so that we know what our end goal is.”
Right now, two major focus areas for ADM’s projects with Field to Market are reduced tillage and planting cover crops to create more residue and not let your soil sit “naked” over the winter. The campaign #DontFarmNaked, created by Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI), is a fun way for farmers to share their cover crop experiences and join a movement on social media.
Many Field to Market projects sponsor cost-share programs that reimburse participating farmers for cover crop seed and are providing assistance to those who want to get started or refine their technique. For instance, ADM is actively recruiting soybean farmers in the Des Moines area and offering incentives as part of an established initiative with Unilever.
“We have a cost share that is $10 per acre, up to 160 acres, or 10 percent of your total farmed acres, whichever is larger. For farmers who have never tried cover crops, there is a program called Forty-By-Forty, where you can receive $40 an acre, up to 40 acres, to see if you like it and want to move forward,” says French.
To enable more farmers to participate in new programs and to meet its own goals for sustainability, ADM came up with a project-based approach. The Unilever Hellman’s Mayonnaise brand is focused on consumer trends and has committed to using 100 percent sustainably sourced soybean oil. ADM knew Iowa soybean farmers would be interested in supporting this commitment and enrolled 43 farmers and 44,257 acres during the first year. After evaluating farming practices and collecting data to measure sustainability indicators from participating farms around ADM’s soybean crushed facility in Des Moines, the program grew and expanded across the state.
The successful first year attracted additional partners to come on board, including Practical Farmers of Iowa, which helped convert the project to a large-scale cover crop cost-share program. Today, PFI pairs Iowa producers with an experienced cover-cropper, who has a similar operation, to teach them about different cover crop species and how to properly grow them on their farms.
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