Tyson Foods is committed to helping U.S. row crop farmers maximize profitability, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and benefiting soil health and water resources.
While Tyson Foods doesn’t own grain farms, we are the largest purchaser of feed corn in the industry. We recognize environmental outcomes of grain production have improved, however, growing grain remains a resource-intensive activity and is a contributor to our overall carbon footprint. Thus, we partner with row crop farmers to continue to advance sustainable land stewardship practices in our supply chain.
We define land stewardship as the application of environmental and conservation best practices focused on soil health, water quality and conservation, nutrient stewardship, and wildlife habitat. Our commitment is to support improved environmental practices on 2 million acres of row crop corn by the end of 2020. This represents enough corn to feed all of Tyson Foods’ annual broiler chicken production in the U.S., as well as some of the pigs and cattle the company buys from independent farmers and ranchers. The overall goal of our land stewardship commitment is to provide farmers with tools to inform them how to improve their economic and environmental bottom line, as well as lower the GHG emissions generated by our supply chain.
With partners including the Environmental Defense Fund, MyFarms and Farmers Business Network (FBN), we engage in various projects and pilots to work with farmers and ranchers and provide them with tools to enhance the sustainability of cattle and row crop production, increasing transparency and reducing the impact of agriculture on the environment. This also helps farmers’ meet increasing consumer demand for more sustainably grown food.
MyFarms is farm management software program that provides farmers with insights about the value of conservation practices. Using MyFarms’ platform, farmers can anonymously learn from one another about opportunities to improve yield and economic performance through the adoption of conservation practices such as planting cover crops and improving soil and manure management. Our partnership with Farmers Business Network (FBN), an organization offering technical and agronomic assistance across a network of 10,000 farmers who span nearly 35 million acres, enabled us to recruit from FBN’s vast farmer membership and enroll farmers in the program. This wealth of baseline data allows us to identify both use of conservation practices and areas for improvement in many areas including nutrient management practices and conservation practices on rented land.
We enrolled more than 400,000 acres of farmland in the first year of the program and reported baseline data in our FY2019 sustainability report.
Due to global interruptions related to the coronavirus pandemic, we have paused growing the land stewardship project to the two-million-acre target. We will continue our 400,000+ acre pilot over the next year and, in 2021, examine future opportunities to further our progress in this important area of our supply chain.
We encourage farmers to use sustainable nutrient management practices, and we educate them about the potential agricultural benefits of responsible litter (manure) management. Although we own the chickens in our poultry business, the poultry litter is owned and managed by contract poultry farmers. The Tyson Foods Supplier Code of Conduct requires farmers to maintain a dedication to protection of the environment and a commitment to sustainable business practices.
Additionally, through various nonprofit partnerships, we’ve helped to move millions of tons of poultry litter out of the Illinois River Watershed which covers parts of eastern Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas. The litter is redistributed to areas with less density of nutrients available.