Growing Clean Water Together


CMM members are working with Environmental Initiative and major food companies to develop a commodity-crop sustainable supply-chain certificate program. This market-based initiative connects food manufacturers who are interested in demonstrating environmental sustainability across their production process with farmers who operate their farms in a sustainable manner. In this program, farmers who reach a high level of environmental protection, certified by the Field Stewards program, are eligible to receive payment for the right to use those farms’ supply-chain certificates in the food processors' sustainability programs.

Many livestock operations buy their animal feed from offsite suppliers. The product information from these feed supply middlemen track the various physical and nutritional properties of the feed but does not include information regarding the level of environmental protection provided at the farm while producing the commodity. To provide this information would require a chain-of-custody approach and separate storage units, raising the cost per bushel.  Another option for supply-chain sustainability exists.

Field Stewards uses an offset model to create a marketplace for supply-chain certificates related to environmental risk management. Producers that reach a predetermined threshold of water resource protection will earn certificates for each commodity crop field acre. Those credits will be bundled by aggregators and placed on the Field Stewards market for purchase by food companies and other buyers. The producers would in turn receive revenue from the sale of those credits on the Field Stewards market. 
Potential buyers of these supply-chain certificates include food companies looking to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability in their commodity supply-chains. GNP Company is an example of a firm embracing such an approach. The company’s Just Bare Chicken® brand is a premium line of antibiotic free and organic chicken. This brand is focused on appealing to mindful consumers and buys renewable energy certificates to offset the electricity used in the brand’s production. 

Using chickens as an example, GNP Company knows how much corn their chickens consume during the grow-out phase on the poultry farm. By dividing total pounds of corn by the average yield of a corn acre they are able to determine the quantity of acres needed to source the feed ingredients. The Field Stewards marketplace will offer supply-chain certificates that represent commodity- crop acres certified for achieving a high level of environmental protection. The corn produced on those certified acres offsets the quantity of corn used at the poultry farms that supply the chickens to GNP Company.  The high level of environmental performance associated with those certified acres offset the possible environmental impact of the actual corn operation supplying the feed.
This offset method provides a level of environmental performance equal to what would result if GNP Company had required all corn farmers selling to their operations to meet the same threshold level of environmental protection. The benefit of the Field Stewards offset approach is that it negates the need for GNP Company to build an entirely new supply-chain and handling system to keep certified corn separate from uncertified corn. This allows GNP Company to efficiently run its feed mill and feed trucks, as there are no expensive tracking requirements.

This private sector supply chain sustainability program is compatible with the State’s Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program run by the Department of Agriculture.  In the State’s program producers are offered ten years of regulatory certainty if they demonstrate they are achieving the same performance threshold. These complementary programs have been tested in the Middle Sauk River watershed in Stearns County, Minnesota. This small scale pilot demonstrated that farmers are willing to participate in supply-chain certificate transactions that support their efforts to reduce the environmental impact of commodity-crop farming.  The near-term future of Field Stewards is to formalize the transaction framework, market the concept to other buyers, and beta test transactions at a regional scale to prepare for full scale implementation.

want to learn more
want to learn more

If you would like more information about the Field Stewards program please contact Greg Bohrer, Senior Manager, Environmental Initiative, Agriculture and Environment Program, at 612-334-3388 ext. 111, or Dennis Fuchs, Administrator, Stearns County SWCD, at 320-251-7800 ext. 132.



The development and piloting of these calculators is in partnership with: