USDA conservation program awards grant to Smithfield collaboration

by Bob Sims
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 Smithfield Foods ham and bacon
Smithfield secured a sizable grant from the USDA. 
SMITHFIELD, Va. – The USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) will deliver a $500,000 grant to grain suppliers in North Carolina for the expansion of Smithfield Foods Inc.’s MBGro sustainability program. MBGro is a collaboration with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) for the advancement of farm conservation practices and food supply chain sustainability.

The program helps grain producers improve water quality and soil health, and reduce fertilizer runoff and greenhouse gas emissions. Methods for this include techniques to improve crop productivity, improve the environment, as well as create nutrient management systems, practicing conservation tillage and planting cover crops.

"This public-private collaboration engages producers, researchers and other stakeholders in expanding conservation practices in agriculture," said Rachel Carr, agronomist and project specialist at MBGro. "The project helps to ensure a strong, sustainable grain production industry for North Carolina while demonstrating the environmental and economic benefits of a sustainable grain supply chain to broader audiences."

North Carolina State Univ. and the Univ. of North Carolina will join the effort through study and measure of the project’s success. To increase participation in the program, the North Carolina Farm Bureau, Soybean Producers Association, Corn Growers Association, Small Grain Growers Association and the North Carolina Pork Council will reach out to producers through their vast networks in the industry.

"With this program, Smithfield Foods and its partners are leading efforts to create a sustainable grain supply chain that will serve as a model to others in the food and agriculture industries," said Stewart Leeth, vice president of regulatory affairs and chief sustainability officer, Smithfield Foods. "The project demonstrates Smithfield's dedication to finding innovative solutions that both create value throughout the food supply chain and better the environment."

Smithfield’s hog production division set a goal in 2014 for 75 percent of its roughly 500,000 grain sourcing acres to adopt sustainable practices by 2018. This project and grant will help further Smithfield Foods in achieving that goal.

     

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