Driving Regeneration in Agriculture

Hands Holding Grain Stalks

September 1, 2021
By John Laney, SVP, GMM Packaged Goods

In 2016, Walmart announced our commitment to sustainably source at least 20 key commodities by 2025. Building on that work, in 2020, we embarked on our journey to go beyond sustainability and become a regenerative company, dedicated to placing nature and humanity at the center of our business.

Regeneration means restoring, renewing, and replenishing, in addition to conserving and sustaining. And as part of that aim, we have committed to protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land by 2030. Across our business, associates have been working with our suppliers and partners to develop tangible ways to make progress toward these goals.

As we sought to drive regeneration in agriculture, we knew we had to focus on food staples like wheat, corn, soy and rice. These crops are foundational to the health and nutrition of our customers and communities. Rice, for example, is the primary staple for more than half the world's population, and corn is the most widely produced feed grain in the U.S.

As a next step in this journey, Walmart and Sam's Club released our new Row Crop Position Statement at our Sustainable Row Crop Summit, outlining farming and reporting best practices for our row crop suppliers. We believe these best practices will help our suppliers and their partners transition to a more sustainable and regenerative future in agricultural production. Some of the practices we recommend include soil and nutrient management, integrated pest management, water management and land management.

We firmly believe that implementing these practices will drive value through increased crop yield resiliency, improved soil health, natural resource preservation, and, in many cases, increased profitability for the farmer. We believe this because we've seen it: farmers around the globe are already achieving results by adopting these practices.

Our bold row crop ambitions require new ways of farming, and recognize that best practices will vary and depend on the geography farmers are in. That’s why our Row Crop Position Statement emphasizes the need for place-based solutions. In practice, this means protecting multiple resources in an area, engaging diverse stakeholders and promoting holistic and innovative strategies for improvement.

As a retailer, we recognize that we cannot accomplish our objectives alone, and the urgent need for action means that we must all work together to achieve a more sustainable, regenerative future.

With this collective mindset to guide us, we have spent the last five years working with the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative (MRCC): a unique partnership of retailers, suppliers and nonprofits focused on incubating and implementing solutions to today's most challenging agricultural issues. MRCC helps farmers in the U.S. heartland adopt farming practices that can reduce emissions, improve soil health and water quality and boost farm resilience and profitability. At our Sustainable Row Crop Summit, we convened some of our fellow MRCC members to share progress on MRCC's work to develop place-based initiatives for Midwest row crop producers. We also announced three new 2030 goals that reflect our shared ambition for a more regenerative agricultural system:

  1. Ensure that 30 million acres in the Midwest employ practices that support improved outcomes for soil health, greenhouse gases, water quality and use, biodiversity and farmer livelihoods. At least 1 million of these acres will demonstrate multiple measurable regenerative outcomes. 
  2. Reduce net on-farm greenhouse gas emissions in the Midwest row crop supply chain by 7 million metric tons.
  3. Directly support at least 30,000 Midwestern farm operations in the transition to regenerative agriculture.

We'll track progress toward these goals through Project Gigaton, Walmart’s initiative to avoid 1 billion metric tons of emissions (one gigaton) from our global value chain by 2030, with the help of our suppliers.

Finally, at the Summit we announced that, in August of this year, the Walmart Foundation provided funding to the University of Minnesota Foundation to help create a new Sustainable Protein Scaling Initiative. This initiative will develop a pathway to scale climate-smart farming practices in the Upper Midwest, by driving the adoption of emerging crops whose production is associated with better soil health.

Whether through philanthropic investments, new corporate commitments, or promoting agricultural best practices, Walmart is committed to driving action toward a more sustainable, regenerative future. We firmly believe that if we all work together – associates, suppliers, farmers and consumers – we can keep healthy food on the table, while renewing and restoring our planet.