Food

General Mills joins environmental effort

General Mills will invest $2 million over three years to help the Nature Conservancy improve soil health through a Soil Health Roadmap designed to make a business case for investing in sustainable soil health practices.

“Soil health is critical for everyone including farmers, farm communities, consumers, and companies,” Jerry Lynch, chief sustainability officer at General Mills, said 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 collaborative approach among businesses, the science community and policymakers is aimed at big, expedient results.

“The needs for advancing soil health are far greater than any single organization can provide — public or private,” said CEO Wayne Honeycutt, of the Soil Health Institute, another collaborator. “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.”

Healthy soil is a growing focus for General Mills. 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 (such as Cargill) in order to gain wide acceptance of better soil health practices.

The initiative includes: improved soil health measurements and standards, increased support for soil health practice adoption by absentee landowners, an expanded network of on-farm demonstration sites, and coordinated 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.

Kristin Leigh Painter

Green Energy

Growth spurs what’s-next breakfast

The solar- and wind-power industries are generating juice and jobs.

Minnesota in 2016 ranked sixth among states for wind energy production, behind No. 1 Texas, generating nearly 18 percent of the state’s electricity and employing about 4,000 people, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). Meanwhile, the AWEA and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) say wind power added about 15,000 U.S. jobs last year, to 102,000 direct employees. The solar industry employs 373,000 Americans who work at least part-time on solar projects. Wind is growing fastest in the Midwest and Great Plains states.

Oil (with 515,518 employees) and natural gas (398,235) are still the big dogs, according to a New York Times examination of DOE data. The coal industry has slid to 160,119 jobs.

Minnesota, which lacks oil or coal reserves, is producing cleaner, less-expensive electricity with a growing mix of natural gas, wind and solar, according to utilities and Fresh Energy, the clean-energy group. It’s hosting a May 10 breakfast program at the Town and Country Club in St. Paul to consider clean-electricity expansion. It will feature Joseph Stagner, executive director of energy management at Stanford University, a pioneer in alternatives and conservation; and Will Kaul, vice president and chief transmission officer at Great River Energy, Minnesota’s third largest power producer and which generates about 25 percent of its power from renewable resources. More information and registration at www.fresh-energy.org.

Neal St. Anthony

development

New life for key north Minneapolis block

Developer George Sherman along with community and government officials christened Friday the $8 million resurrection of a long-shuttered car dealership that has been an eyesore for years at 800 W. Broadway on the near-North Side’s biggest commercial artery that spans from the Mississippi River to Robbinsdale.

The renovated complex, financed largely by Sunrise Banks and long-term low-income tax credits granted by the federal government in struggling neighborhoods, includes a Northpoint Health & Wellness clinic, a state workforce center and an office of the Minneapolis Public Schools. They will work together on job readiness, business collaborations and employment. There also is ground level retail space.

Beth Grosen, senior project manager with the Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development Department, said the building opened in 1925 and remained a car dealership until the early 1990s. It was most recently a used furniture store. The former owner ceased paying taxes about a decade ago. Sherman, who owns the Hawthorne Crossing shopping center next door, acquired the building out of foreclosure.

A city staff report three years ago estimated that redevelopment costs would exceed the finished value of the building, creating a financing gap. Minneapolis provided $500,000 in tax-increment financing.

Neal St. Anthony