General Mills CEO Discusses the Importance of Sustainable Agriculture

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Drip Irrigation on LettuceSustainability is becoming a growing concern for individuals and big companies, alike.  General Mills is just one example of a big company that has realized they have both a responsibility to promote efficient agricultural practices and an opportunity to maximize efficiency and productivity.

At Fortune‘s Brainstorm GREEN conference in Laguna Nigel, CA, General Mills CEO, Kendall Powell discussed the importance of sustainable agriculture and managing the global food supply.  The entire transcript is available at cnn.com, but of special interest are his comments on drip irrigation, interest free loans, and rewarding growers who improve their efficiency and productivity.

“We’ve grown vegetables for many, many years, almost 50 years in the Irapuato region of Central Mexico, and it’s why we’re able to enjoy vegetables in the U.S. year-round.  There’s a perpetual growing season there.  And we’ve been working with the same farmers for many, many years.  But one of the things that we’ve been doing, ways we’ve been supporting those farmers over the last five years is giving them interest-free loans so that they can install drip irrigation in their fields.  And they’re growing broccoli and carrots and this sort of thing, which cuts water use, which is critical in that part of the world, increases their yield, increases their income, helps us manage our costs and ultimately helps consumers.  But that’s something where we’re, I think, starting at the very beginning of the value chain and seeing it pass all the way through.”

Powell went on to confirm that, over time, preference would be given to those growers who are more efficient, productive, use less land, and use less water.  Whether that results in higher pay and longer-term relationships, time will tell.

“As a food company we know that one of the first things that consumers do when they start to enter [the] middle class around the world, whether it’s China or India or Brazil…one of the very first things they do is they improve their diet. They buy more food, they buy more protein, they buy better food.  So it’s sort of a compounding effect.”

Sustainability isn’t just a buzz word or a trendy idea.  As countries develop and the world population increases, so will the global need for food.  But since we are limited by available water and farm land, we need to find ways to grow more efficiently and get the most out of our available resources.  Drip irrigation is one of the ways that a growing number of growers and food companies are tackling this important issue.

To read the entire transcript and to learn more about how General Mills is supporting growing markets and managing the global food supply through its grower supply chain, click here.

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