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Minnesota Embarks on a Public-Private Partnership to Innovate Agriculture

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Submitted by Rashaan Jeffery, Public Affairs Specialist

ST. PAUL, MINN, JULY 20, 2022  - Hormel Foods, Target and MBOLD, a coalition of Minnesota-based food and agriculture business leaders and innovators, have joined in a public-private partnership to support an innovative agriculture pilot project. The group joins other funding partners, including the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and several other agriculture and conservation-focused organizations.

Collectively, Hormel Foods and Target will provide $1.7 million for farmers to participate in the pilot project and adopt practices such as cover cropping, reduced tillage and nutrient management. The project will focus on advances in soil health practices to improve water and air quality, sequester greenhouse gasses and increase farmland profitability. The goal is to enroll up to 50,000 acres by July 31, 2022.

The pilot is part of the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium’s (ESMC) effort to launch a nationwide marketplace for agricultural carbon and water credits in 2022. Led by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Minnesota pilot, launched in 2020, is actively signing up farmers on a first-come, first-served basis. The program builds engagement with prospective purchasers of carbon and water credits to measure and demonstrate the impact of soil health practices on water, air and carbon sequestration.

“We will show how farmers, food companies and consumers can advance regenerative farming practices in a quantifiable and economical way,” said Leif Fixen, agriculture strategy manager for TNC in Minnesota. “There is increased demand across the supply chain for soil health practices as these changes are required to sustain our ag economy and environment into the future.”

Programs that make soil health practices more financially accessible to farmers are important as food systems across the globe become increasingly strained. The investments from Hormel Foods, the lead sponsor, and Target, a participating sponsor, will demonstrate how companies with shared supply chains can team up to accelerate the adoption of soil health practices. This benefits agricultural producers who want to make their operation more economically and environmentally sustainable as corporate buyers source products from improved climate change practices.

“Partnerships like this, bringing together all aspects of food production, from farmer to processor, store to consumer, make conservation and farming a success to benefit everyone. Farming is the world’s oldest profession - without successful farming, we cannot survive in the world,” said Troy Daniell, Minnesota NRCS State Conservationist.

“Hormel Foods is eager to support and engage with growers to accelerate the adoption of regenerative agriculture practices and help strengthen Minnesota’s economy, environment and quality of life,” said Mark Coffey, group vice president of supply chain for Hormel Foods. “We are committed to protecting water quality, reducing water use and improving our renewable energy sources, as we recognize the importance of these actions in helping to mitigate climate change.”

As an ecosystem service market program, this effort also has the potential to improve the health of Minnesota’s rivers, lakes and streams. With more than half of the state’s land in agricultural production and an annual economic impact of more than $112 billion, Minnesota’s farmers and ranchers are well-positioned to lead in markets focused on environmental sustainability.

“MBOLD helped unite participants across multiple sectors behind this important investment. By partnering across the value chain from grower to food company to retailer, we can support agricultural innovations that work for farmers, businesses and our environment,” said JoAnne Berkenkamp, managing director of the MBOLD coalition. “It’s a great example of how Minnesota leaders are working together to tackle major challenges facing food and agriculture.”

To help spread the word, TNC is hosting an on-line session to provide information on the ESMC program, eligible practices, data requirements and the enrollment process, we hope you can join the session: Friday, July 22 10:00 -10:55 https://tnc.zoom.us/j/95216654839 or by phone +1 312 626 6799 Meeting ID: 952 1665 4839