WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. and BROOMFIELD, Colo. — Danone North America, in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), today announced a unique, multi-year agreement aimed at improving the economic resiliency and soil health of farms, including those within the supply chain of the company. This new public-private partnership will leverage state and federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for soil health. The commitment is in addition to Danone North America’s previously announced investment of up to $6 million in soil health research over the next four years.
America’s farmers are stewards of the land. When they care for their soil well, better yields are achieved with fewer inputs. By unlocking available public funding from NFWF and NRCS via a new concept in matching investment proposed by Danone North America, farmers now have more access to seeds and incentives to plant cover crops, which is critically important for nutrient balancing and overall soil health.
Danone North America will begin working with farmers in Kansas and Ohio before expanding to other states named in the application for NRCS funding, which include key dairy sheds: IN, MI, OH, NY, PA, TX, NM, KS, NE, ID and UT. The company is working with NFWF to develop an application process to leverage the $3 million of USDA funding to expand its soil health program with farmers. The grants are in effect “in escrow” and will be dispersed directly to farmers based on specific criteria — for example, agreeing to implement certain land management activities such as cover crops.
“Soil is the foundation of our food system, with an estimated 95 percent of food directly or indirectly reliant on soil[i],” said Tina Owens, senior director of agriculture, Danone North America. “As America’s largest maker of organic and plant-based foods, as well as yogurt, we saw an opportunity to initiate this breakthrough collaboration to benefit the farms on which we rely to make great food.”
“Some of the nation’s most important conservation efforts focus on voluntary efforts to improve soil health, habitats and agricultural practices on private lands,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “This new partnership with Danone North America will generate additional resources to drive innovative and collaborative conservation efforts that will help dairy farmers become even better stewards of the land.”
“The Conservation Innovation Grants program is funding the future of conservation and agriculture,” said NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr. “The On-Farm Trials are a new component of the program that allow partners to work with NRCS and farmers to implement innovative practices and systems on their lands, providing new data to support conservation work in the future. Food companies like Danone North America have tremendous ability to drive conservation through their supply chains. NRCS applauds Danone North America for its leadership in supply chain conservation and we are happy to partner with them and NFWF to support conservation innovation at the field level.”
Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) commented: “Soil health management and water conservation have long been priorities of Kansas farmers. I commend these Kansans for their continued innovation toward conserving and protecting natural resources by establishing partnerships within the food value chain in a voluntary, market-driven fashion.”
“It’s important to build on the work done by farms across the country to develop holistic soil health management systems and evaluate best practices,” said Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “This partnership between Danone North America and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will help Ohio farmers identify the most effective practices for improving soil health, reducing runoff and protecting Ohio’s waterways.”
In 2018 Danone North America announced its commitment of $6 million to soil health research and this new collaboration builds on that commitment, adding strong partners in the public sector. In addition to the evaluation of soil on farms of growers that provide feed for cows, the long-lasting relationships Danone North America has with its growers and dairy farmers — who have a passion for change and strive for continuous improvement — have empowered the company to launch its soil health research program. Now in its second year, the research program has nearly doubled to approximately 50,000 acres, of which about 80 percent of the acreage added in 2019 is certified organic. This includes 23 dairies in 10 states across 692 fields with 28 varieties of cover and cash crops. Over the next two years, the company hopes to expand the research program up to 100,000 acres as it looks to verify the environmental and cost benefits of employing better practices, such as cover crops, and continue its study of other practices including improved conservation tillage, crop rotations and nutrient management. This work requires collaboration to make a meaningful impact, and the company is excited to bring together uniquely skilled partners to continue its ambitious research project.
The aim of Danone North America’s soil health initiative is to identify ways to help regenerate soils by enhancing organic matter and soil fertility, and drive long-term economic and environmental benefits — such as soil carbon sequestration, reduced chemicals use, soil water holding capacity, and increased biodiversity — to improve the economic resilience of farmer communities. Key activities with participating grower and dairy farmer partners and third-party soil health experts include: soil sampling, review of yield, grower engagement, data collection and analysis, and field days with farmers to provide training around soil health best practices.
The partners in this initiative are:
- NRCS: Since 1935, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has helped America’s private landowners and managers conserve their soil, water, and other natural resources. NRCS provides technical assistance based on sound science and offers financial assistance for many conservation activities.
- NFWF: Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 4,500 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of more than $5.3 billion. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.
- Danone North America: Danone North America strives to make a positive difference in the world and aspires to bring health through food to as many people as possible. The company makes food that delights people at any age and during any moment of the day. With a portfolio of beloved, trusted and pioneering brands in fresh dairy; organic dairy; plant-based; fresh foods; and coffee creamers and beverages, Danone North America is a subsidiary of Danone SA and one of the top 15 food and beverage companies in the U.S.
About Danone North America:
Danone North America is purpose-driven company with a portfolio of dairy and plant-based foods. As the world’s largest Certified B Corporation®, Danone North America is committed to the creation of both economic and social value, while nurturing natural ecosystems through sustainable agriculture. Our portfolio of brands includes: Activia®, DanActive®, Danimals®, Dannon®, Good PlantsTM, Horizon Organic®, International Delight®, Light + Fit®, Oikos®, Silk®, So Delicious® Dairy Free, STōK®, Two GoodTM, Vega®, Wallaby® Organic and YoCrunch®. With more than 6,000 employees and 13 production locations across the U.S., our mission is to bring health through food to as many people as possible. For more information, visit www.danonenorthamerica.com. For more information on Danone North America’s B Corp™ status, visit: https://bcorporation.net/directory/danone-north-america.
About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) works with the public and private sectors to sustain, restore and enhance the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats for current and future generations. Chartered by Congress in 1984, NFWF has grown to become the nation’s largest private conservation grant-maker, supporting more than 17,250 projects and generating a total conservation impact of more than $5.3 billion. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.
About the Natural Resources Conservation Service
Since 1935, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has helped America’s private landowners and managers conserve their soil, water, and other natural resources. NRCS provides technical assistance based on sound science and offers financial assistance for many conservation activities.
[i] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2015, ‘Healthy Soils Are The Basis For Healthy Food Production,’ http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4405e.pdf