General Mills is committing $2 million over three years to help The Nature Conservancy improve soil health.

The Golden Valley-based food company announced its initial partnership with the conservation organization back in November when unveiling a new Soil Health Roadmap. The roadmap attempts to build a business case for investing in sustainable soil health practices.

This new funding announced Thursday will help The Nature Conservancy, along with the Soil Health Institute and the Soil Health Partnership, implement those plans outlined last fall. 

"Soil health is critical for everyone including farmers, farm communities, consumers, and companies,” said Jerry Lynch, chief sustainability officer at General Mills, in a statement. “We are grateful to partner with farmers in our supply chain in their ongoing work to build healthy soils, and welcome further collaboration with all interested parties in the value chain."

The idea behind the roadmap is that cooperation between businesses, the science community and policy makers can produce bigger results and faster.

“The needs for advancing soil health are far greater than any single organization can provide – public or private,” said Wayne Honeycutt, president and CEO of the Soil Health Institute, in a statement. "These same soil health practices that are good for farmers can also improve water quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance pollinator and other wildlife habitat.  Partnering is the way we can achieve national scale of such benefits.”

Soil health is a growing focus on General Mills' sustainability platform. The company depends on croplands to produce the raw ingredients that go into its wide-ranging product lineup. Honeycutt said a 1 percent increase in soil's organic carbon can increase its capacity to hold water by 2,500 to 12,000 gallons per acre.

The money will finance the development of tools for farmers, landowners and supply chain leaders (like Cargill) in order to gain wide acceptance of better soil health practices. 

The groups' goals include:

Improving soil health measurements and standards; increasing support for soil health practice adoption by absentee landowners; targeting, planning and expanding the field network of on-farm demonstration sites; and coordinating soil health activities and communications.

The conservation groups and General Mills aim to change the soil health management on at least 50 percent of U.S. croplands by 2025. The group argues this improved soil health would translate into $1.2 billion in annual net economic gains for farmers.

The Soil Health Roadmap, developed by General Mills, The Nature Conservancy and other stakeholders

The Soil Health Roadmap, developed by General Mills, The Nature Conservancy and other stakeholders

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