USA – General Mills, the maker of Yoplait, Liberté and Mountain High yogurt products, has launched a three-year regenerative dairy pilot in western Michigan, USA to support the company’s commitment to advance regenerative agriculture on 1 million acres of farmland.
General Mills has partnered with consultants Understanding Ag and dairy cooperative Foremost Farms to pilot regenerative practices and provide support to participating dairy farmers.
The launch of Michigan, one of the company’s key sourcing region for its fluid milk supply, marks the the third regenerative agriculture pilot that the company has launched – and the first for its dairy ingredient supply – since making a commitment in 2019 to advance regenerative agriculture practices on 1 million acres of farmland by 2030.
In March 2019, General Mills launched a regenerative oat pilot with 45 farmers across North Dakota, Saskatchewan and Manitoba implementing practices on more than 50,000 acres of farmland.
In the beginning of 2020, the company launched its second pilot consisting of 24 farmers growing wheat across a collective 17,000 acres in central Kansas.
The food and beverage company observes that implementing regenerative practices on dairy farms require a holistic approach to managing land, cows and manure and in order for regenerative agriculture to be successful, it must first be economically viable for farmers as a lever to help build operational and financial resilience.
“With this pilot, General Mills is committed to ensuring that the transition to regenerative practices will be beneficial to our dairy partners and enhance the overall health of their farms,” said Mary Jane Melendez, chief sustainability and social impact officer at General Mills.
“We’re excited to be working closely with our supplier Foremost Farms and consultants at Understanding Ag to help us get this work underway and measure the impact.”
General Mills says that the three dairy farms in the pilot will collectively manage more than 14,000 acres, which the company notes were chosen for their proximity to its dairy manufacturing facility in Reed City, Michigan.
As the pilot begins, the company explained that Understanding Ag consultants will meet with each dairy farmer to co-develop and implement custom regenerative management plans for a portion of their operation.
Throughout the pilot, partners will monitor data and measure impacts to soil, biodiversity, water, animal well-being and farm profitability.
“As an industry, dairy farms have been especially hard hit in recent months and their resiliency is being tested. We believe regenerative agriculture builds and strengthens farmer resilience so they can better withstand pressures, be it societal, financial or environmental,” said Doug Martin, president of the General Mills U.S. yogurt business.
“Consumers increasingly want to support brands and companies they trust are acting as environmental stewards. This pilot with Yoplait is a great example of the role our brands can play in unleashing the scale of our supply chain – supporting farmers, promoting animal welfare, and improving the health of the planet, all while delivering a great-tasting product.”
In addition to the new project in Michigan, General Mills revealed that it is also supporting a team of leading researchers from Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison to model holistic impacts from change in farm management practices.
The company says that this team is developing data-driven tools that will empower dairies to build resiliency in their businesses and the dairy ecosystem. Models will be adapted and used to inform actions in the three-year Michigan pilot.
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