There was a time it was rare to see environmental groups in the same room with agricultural organizations unless it was a court room or a Congressional hearing. Those days are gone as evidenced by a Celebration of Collaborative Conservation in America’s Heartland held at the Donald Danforth Science Center in St. Louis this week.
The event, hosted by the Environmental Defense Fund and the National Corn Growers Association, focused on the importance of a partnership built on shared goals and values as the most direct and efficient route to substantive change, according to Chris Novak, NCGA CEO.
“In our work on agriculture sustainability we focus on science, economics and partnership. We want to make sure we are doing the right thing and that potential changes or solutions work economically or they will never get up to scale,” said Suzy Friedman, senior director of agriculture sustainability for EDF. “We feel very strongly working in collaboration is the key.”
It is possible to find practices that help achieve conservation goals and help growers improve profitability, noted Jason Jenkins of Missourians for Monarchs. But it all starts with people getting to know each other and exploring common interests. His group now has more than 40 organizations involved including agriculture organizations, civic groups and environmental groups.
Jenkins and Friedman were joined by Kraig Westerbeek, vice president of environment and support operations for Smithfield Foods and farmer Tim Richter, farmer and partner for Saratoga Partnership, in a panel discussion. The panel discussed opportunities for collaboration among farmers, food and agriculture companies, policymakers, the public and countless other ag stakeholders.
Following the discussion the crowd had a sneak peek of the Discovery Channel’s forthcoming Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman documentary, based on the book that came out earlier this year, which Farm Bureau referred to as “the most important book about agriculture you’ll read this year – maybe ever.”
The film, narrated by former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, makes its public debut August 31 on the Discovery Channel.
“Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” brings together the story of conservation in different parts of a very large country with a single theme: that environmentalists and producers can work together to achieve common goals.
CommonGround is a group of farmers connecting with consumers through conversations about science and research and personal stories about food and misinformation surrounding farming. Supported by the NCGA and state corn organizations.
The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is a farmer-led initiative that fosters transformation in agriculture through improved soil health. Administered by NCGA the partnership has more than 220 working farms enrolled in 16 states. SHP’s mission is to utilize science and data to partner with farmers who are adopting conservation agricultural practices that improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the farm.
The Corn Utilization and Technology Conference (CUTC) is a biennial event happening this June. Learn more.