Big Ag and Big Green Team up: What’s Not to Like?
The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an article last week about an unlikely coalition that has formed to improve the environmental impact of crop agriculture in the Midwest. Cargill, Wal-Mart, Monsanto and others involved in “Big Ag” will team up with global environmental players such as The Nature Conservancy to form the “Midwest Row Crop Collaborative,” which will work to develop solutions to farm nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River basin. One hoped-for advantage from teaming global entities like these is that solutions can be scaled up quickly.
Yes, I suppose that’s true. One of the persistent problems with improving farm nutrient runoff is that solutions aren’t always seen as scalable, as “moving the needle” on such a large problem. Another challenge that the new collaborative effort might address is that “Big Ag” has rarely been committed to finding solutions. People say the right things here and there, and individual farmers always seem to be doing their best to balance the desire to be good stewards with the economic realities of running their business. Broad-based commitment that leads to active change has always seemed elusive, though. Emphases on consistent measures of progress toward clear strong goals are important first steps toward meaningful change.
Here’s hoping this effort makes a difference. I hope that with all the “Bigs” at the table there is still room for local voices, for local conditions, and for adoption of solutions that are scalable but not just “one size fits all.” We all hope that the partners at this table will keep each other accountable to shared goals, and not let the collaboration fall apart due to one sector or the other falling into narrow habits. If this effort turns out to be just another “greenwash” that sells farmers more pesticides or something in the name of sustainability, we will have lost a huge opportunity.