We will advance regenerative agriculture practices on 1 million acres of farmland by 2030.
At General Mills, our business is rooted in the earth because we rely upon the output of Mother Nature and farming communities – oats, wheat, dairy, corn, sugar beets and a whole host of crops and livestock – to make food the world loves. Threats to agriculture, like extreme droughts and floods, impact our business and our ability to help feed a growing population. To drive growth and increase resilience, we need to move beyond just sustaining our planet, and use our scale to start regenerating it. If you are a farmer click here to learn more about how our plans relate to you.
We believe the most promising solutions start with healthy soil. Healthy soil has the ability to pull carbon out of the atmosphere (where in excess quantities it is a harmful greenhouse gas) and store it underground where it can restore nutrients and feed an array of biology and life. This is important because up to one-third of greenhouse gas emissions stem from the food system, an estimated 80% of which comes from agriculture.*
So, we are on a journey to make a meaningful difference through Regenerative Agriculture, which we define as agriculture that protects and intentionally enhances natural resources and farming communities. We believe that to generate positive impact at scale, all types of agriculture – organic and conventional – can be part of the solution.
In 2019, we publicly announced an ambitious commitment.
We estimate that one million acres is more than 20% of our North American sourcing footprint, roughly the size of the Grand Canyon!
Just as no two farmers are alike, no two farms are identical and regenerative agriculture isn’t a one-size fits all approach. However, there are common principles that when implemented in tandem, like integrating livestock and keeping a living root in the ground year-round, prompt and expedite desired outcomes.
Among its many benefits, regenerative agriculture principles can pull carbon from the air and store it underground to fuel a vast array of life. Also, keeping the soil protected from erosion under an armor of living plants and crop residue can help suppress pests by promoting natural competition to reduce the need for synthetic pesticides.
Regenerative Agriculture works best when the farming or ranching operation is viewed as an ecosystem. There are six core principles of regenerative agriculture that we use as the basis for our work:
We believe measuring outcomes is critical to ensure that regenerative agriculture practices lead to desirable outcomes. Our approach seeks to connect regenerative agriculture practices to real and measured outcomes across four key areas:
Farmer Economic Resilience
By restoring and enhancing natural ecosystem processes like water and nutrient cycling, pest predation and weed competition, regenerative agriculture improves ecosystem function and builds resilience over time. This supports productivity, while reducing reliance on inputs needed to combat system stressors like pests, nutrient deficiencies, and diseases.
Soil is a complex ecosystem that forms the base of the food chain for humans and all land animals. Soil also plays an essential role in balancing the earth’s ecosystem and our climate. Healthier soil can hold more water, increase resilience to floods and droughts, supply more nutrients to plants, and purify water.
Crops, animals and communities rely on clean water to flourish. Regenerative agriculture helps maximize water use efficiency in rain-fed and irrigated systems. In addition to water utilization, these same practices can reduce agriculture’s impact on water quality, helping to protect and restore clean water in nearby streams, rivers and lakes.
Diversity in plants, grazing animals, wildlife and insects helps to improve soil health and build resilience to pests and diseases in farm and ranch ecosystems.
We have multiple workstreams underway to advance the use of these principles, including pilot programs, brand activation, land conversions, research and investments.
To begin advancing our one-million-acre Regenerative Agriculture commitment, we have partnered with Understanding Ag to activate pilots across three of our priority ingredient regions – the Northern Plains of North Dakota, Saskatchewan and Manitoba; Kansas; and Michigan. Each of these pilots provide farmers with practical tools to implement regenerative agriculture including one-on-one coaching and technical assistance for three years, customized plans for implementation in their operations, soil health testing, farmer networking communities, and biodiversity and economic assessments to demonstrate impact on outcomes over time. For more information about our Pilot Programs, click here.
Northern Plains Oat Pilot
In March 2019, General Mills launched its first regenerative agriculture pilot with farmers in the Northern Plains across North Dakota, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The 3-year pilot is comprised of 45 oat growers. Participating farmers have access to continuing education via the Soil Health Academy, technical support from an Understanding Ag coach, farmer-focused field days and a private Facebook group to encourage ongoing exchange of ideas and best practices.
Farms enrolled in the Regenerative Agriculture Oat Pilot
Kansas Wheat Pilot
In January 2020, General Mills launched a regenerative agriculture wheat pilot with farmers in Kansas’ Cheney Reservoir watershed which provides water to more than 400,000 Wichita residents. The company targeted this watershed in conjunction with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to improve water quality as part of the statewide Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy.
The 3-year pilot is comprised of 24 wheat growers in and around the 650,000-acre watershed where more than ninety-nine percent of the land is used for agricultural purposes. Participating farmers will have access to continuing education via the Soil Health Academy, technical support from an Understanding Ag coach, farmer-focused field days and a private Facebook group to encourage ongoing exchange of ideas and best practices. (link to more information)
Farms enrolled in the Regenerative Agriculture Wheat Pilot