Smithfield Foods and its livestock production subsidiary, Murphy-Brown, are collaborating with Environmental Defense Fund to help farmers optimize fertilizer application to grain grown for animal feed. EDF estimates that the collaboration will reduce excess nitrogen fertilizer on more than 450,000 acres and reduce GHG emissions from agriculture by more than 60,000 tons.
Efficiently applying fertilizer reduces water pollution and GHG emissions, while maintaining crop yields and lowering farm input costs.
Excess fertilizer also emits significant amounts of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Agriculture is the fifth largest source of GHG emissions in the United States.
Smithfield is a major supplier of pork products sold to Walmart, which is asking suppliers that use commodity grains like corn, wheat and soy in their products to develop plans that reduce fertilizer loss on farms.
Out of 15 fertilizer optimization plans submitted to Walmart by its major suppliers, Smithfield’s plan, which features its work with EDF, was selected as “best in class” by the company.
The new program will help farmers who sell grain to Murphy-Brown learn to use new tools and practices that more precisely match fertilizer application with their crops’ needs and improve soil health. The company, which raises hogs in North Carolina, says the goal is to have 75 percent of its Southeast grain-sourcing acres participate in a fertilizer optimization and soil health program by 2018.
The program will roll out in North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina this year. It will expand to grain Smithfield buys from Midwest farmers in 2015.