General Mills Announces Soil Health as Priority

At the invitation of General Mills, and in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the Soil Health Partnership, the Soil Health Institute (SHI) presented on the “Scientific Basis for Soil Health” at the Business for Social Responsibility Conference, Nov. 1-3, in New York, New York.  The annual conference, attended by almost 1,000 senior business executives and entrepreneurs from the public sector and civil society, focused on global sustainability.

Ken Powell, Chairman & CEO of General Mills, announced in the Conference’s Opening Keynote Address that soil health is a top priority and key area of impact for their business. SHI president and CEO Wayne Honeycutt indicated he is inspired by food industry leaders like General Mills who recognize that a focus on soil health helps them achieve their sustainability goals and supports farmers in their stewardship of our natural resources.

During the conference, The Nature Conservancy announced its Roadmap to US Soil Health.

“Recognizing that farmers cannot improve what they cannot measure, it remains SHI’s highest priority to establish measurements and standards to initiate and support an ongoing assessment of the health of United States’ soils, and we were honored to be able to join the conference to discuss the assessment and forward-thinking, collaborative goals,” Honeycutt said.

Organizations Meet to Define Roles, Establish Greater Soil Health Collaboration

Ten organizations with major interests and initiatives in soil health met October 26-27 at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Oklahoma to identify synergies, develop working partnerships to bring soil health efforts to scale and establish a clear path forward for collaboration.

At its conclusion, participating organizations unanimously agreed to establish a coordinating coalition to help optimize the impact of efforts and provide clarity and strength to our respective priorities and missions. Participants currently are working to develop a vision statement and statement of purpose for the coalition. A next step will include engaging key public sector partners.

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Representatives from organizations that gathered on Oct. 26-27 at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, OK (L-R): Sheldon Jones, Soil Health Institute; Rob Myers, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education; Michael Doane, The Nature Conservancy; Jim Gulliford, Soil and Water Conservation Society; Steve Shafer, Soil Health Institute; Byron Rath, Soil Health Institute; Jerry Hatfield, Tri-Societies; Chad Watts, Conservation Technology Information Center; Larry Clemens, The Nature Conservancy; Karl Anderson, Tri-Societies; Jeremy Peters, National Association of Conservation Districts; Nick Goeser, Soil Health Partnership; Wayne Honeycutt, Soil Health Institute; Lara Moody, The Fertilizer Institute; Cristine Morgan, Global Soil Security; and Beth Mason, National Association of Conservation Districts.

National Soil Health Assessment Focusing First on State Soils

A number of soil health partners are working in earnest to develop a National Soil Health Assessment (NSHA).  The purpose of the NSHA is to generate data and analyses to:

  • establish baselines for soil health at regional to national scales;
  • identify trends in changes in soil health;
  • establish a context to interpret soil health information obtained for individual land managers and local decision makers;
  • support selection of land management practices that will lead to improvements in soil health and the resulting benefits to agricultural production and natural resources; and
  • provide information to policy makers responsible for public policies in agriculture and natural resources.

Public and private sector collaboration will be required to ensure the NSHA’s success. The Institute is considering a plan to test sampling designs and protocols on the State Soils – the most geospatially and agriculturally important soils in the 48 coterminous United States. The State Soils are represented in this map, created by USDA-NRCS at the Institute’s request.

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Credit: Created by National Soil Survey Center, USDA-NRCS, Soil Science Division on September 21, 2016