Smithfield Foods enters partnership to advance conservation

by Erica Shaffer
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Smithfield Farms will be advancing its conservation including crop irrigation.

PRINCETON, Mo. – Smithfield Foods Inc. and United Suppliers Inc. have joined forces to improve soil health in areas of the Midwest where Smithfield sources hogs. The pork processor, a subsidiary of China-based WH Group, is the first protein processor to use the conservation platform called SUSTAIN.

SUSTAIN, developed by United Suppliers, combines technologies, practices and products that improve soil health and nutrient use efficiency while reducing soil erosion. Smithfield plans to use the platform in Iowa and Missouri with sustainability guidance from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).  United Suppliers is a cooperative of 560 locally owned and controlled agricultural retailers who operate nearly 2,500 retail stores and serve growers in the United States and Canada.

“We are committed to sustainability and to finding solutions where we can both make the environment better and create value,” said Kraig Westerbeek, vice president of environment and support operations at Smithfield Foods’ Hog Production Division. “Farmers spend up to half of their input costs on fertilizer, so keeping more nutrients where they belong helps growers save money and improve yields. We’re excited to offer the SUSTAIN platform to our Midwest growers because it’s a true win-win.”

The Smithfield-United Suppliers goals include:

  • Optimizing nutrient use efficiency and improve soil health in Smithfield's Midwest sourcing regions;
  • Expanding the reach of the SUSTAIN platform in the Smithfield sourcing region to help United Suppliers meet its goal of 10 million acres enrolled in SUSTAIN by 2020;
  • Protecting yields while reducing nutrient and soil loss, thereby achieving greenhouse gas emissions reductions and water quality improvements; and
  • Improving the resiliency of the US food production system.

Smithfield joins General Mills, Campbell’s Soup and Unilever in adapting the SUSTAIN platform.

“We’re excited to announce this collaboration at today's grower meeting hosted by South Central Cooperative, one of United Suppliers’ authorized SUSTAIN retailers,” said Matt Carstens, vice president of United Suppliers. “This is a great example of how food companies, ag retailers, and growers can work together to achieve success in the realm of ag sustainability that ultimately meets the demands of the consumer.”

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