During the ARA Conference & Expo, Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at the Hilton Bonnet Creek in Orlando, the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) released a new report, "Sustainability: Elements and Implementation within Ag Retail."
The sustainability report, developed by volunteers from ARA's member services committee, helps define sustainability for agricultural retailers and provides a roadmap to select or establish a sustainability program for their organization.
"With the world population estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050, the entire agriculture supply chain must work together to efficiently and responsibly lay the groundwork for the future," the report states. "Collaboration among stakeholders through industry-wide dialogue, grounded in science and open to the full range of technology choices, will create opportunities across the entire agricultural sector to promote sustainable agriculture."
The report walks retailers through the elements of sustainability programs. This includes developing a vision statement, creating community goodwill, questions to consider and a preliminary list of existing industry programs.
A Strong Start
Initiatives like 4R Nutrient Stewardship, Crop Production Stewardship, Environmental Respect Awards, ResponsibleAg and others are an important starting point in shaping overarching sustainability programs. Established measurement and continuous improvement programs such as Field to Market (FTM) can build on other stewardship initiatives.
"Implement a platform for your customers that can collect data and provide reports on the seven sustainability indicators established by Field to Market," the report states. "The fact that participants in Field to Market have agreed on these indicators is important, because the organization includes producer groups, food companies, grocery retailers and environmental groups, as well as ARA. Achieving consistency across the food chain on what sustainability is and how to measure it while preserving that consensus will be a priority for FTM participants."
The report also addresses growers' needs to report conservation practices to USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS continues to express interest to partner with ag retailers and crop consultants to allow private sector solutions to report this data on behalf of the farmer. ARA is in the process of negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding with NRCS to strengthen the relationship with retail agronomists and NRCS technical personnel and processes.
"To the extent that a retailer's data platform can handle the data collection and reporting for the growers for sustainability and/or conservation compliance reporting, a potential business opportunity exists," the report states.
Although some larger ag retail companies will develop their own solutions for sustainability programs, others will rely on outside expertise. ARA is developing a list of providers with expertise who will license their platform to independent or unaffiliated retailers. The list will be provided as an addendum to the sustainability report in the near future.
Read the full report at www.aradc.org/sustainability.