FtM Focuses on Making “Sustainable” Real on the Farm

November 24, 2010 Bookmark and Share

NAWG Second Vice President Erik Younggren represented wheat producers at last week’s Field to Market plenary meeting in North Carolina.

Field to Market is facilitated by the Keystone Center and includes participants from throughout the food chain, from commodity groups to agribusiness to major food companies and environmental groups.

The group’s core function is to define, measure and document changes in sustainability over time to help the industry be better able to strike a long-term balance between environmental concerns, natural resource concerns and feeding a projected population of nine billion by the year 2050.

Much of the discussion at the meeting last week, and much of the work done by Field to Market, involves complicated scientific and economic data and making choices about how to use it to define success in something as abstract as sustainability.

The goal of quantifying farmers’ efforts to use less to produce more was the underlying theme of the two-day meeting, which included items ranging from specific discussions about new data on rice production to training new members to communicate effectively about the coalition.

Among other things, the group talked extensively about how to define wildlife biodiversity and what biodiversity measures should be included in Field to Market metrics.

They also saw an example of how processing companies can combine their data with that from Field to Market to determine the carbon footprint of a food item any consumer could find on the store shelf. This will become an area of increased work as more retail outlets seek to give this information to shoppers.

From a farmer’s perspective, the advantage of Field to Market’s work is access to information on how efficient his or her operation is compared to neighbors in the area and the region – which can translate into new or changed management practices that achieve cost savings and environmental benefit.

Producers can find work done so far in a relatively easy-to-use format with the Field to Market Fieldprint Calculator, available online at http://www.fieldtomarket.org/fieldprint-calculator/.The calculator requires inputting historical and agronomic data, and ultimately compares information on land use, water use, soil loss, climate impact and energy use on the user’s farm to state and national averages.

NAWG has participated with the Field to Market coalition for a number of years as part of one effort to translate growing desires from retail food companies and consumers to know about the impact of their food products on the environment.

NAWG staff and officers would appreciate feedback from farmers about the Fieldprint Calculator experience, sent to wheatworld (at) wheatworld.org.