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Smithfield Foods has successfully engaged 80 percent of its supply chain for grain — which is used to feed the company’s hogs — in farming practices that are both sustainable and reduce the cost of production for grain farmers. Read more…


Smithfield Foods: Smithfield Foods Achieves Industry-Leading Environmental Commitment by Engaging Grain Supply Chain in Sustainable Farming Practices

Environmental Defense Fund: How Smithfield achieved its grain sustainability goal

How can ag retailers incorporate cover crops into their business model? Datu reports on the experience of two farmer-owned cooperatives that are committed to actively supporting their customers with cover crop products, advice and services. A follow-on to our September 2018 study of Certified Crop Advisors and Ag Retailers, these case studies tell the story of how each co-op came to embrace cover crops. Each one shares victories and challenges, lessons learned, and advice to other ag retailers who are interested in expanding their own cover crop offerings.
Ag retailers and Certified Crop Advisers are a trusted go-to source for farmers. How willing are they to help their farmer customers adopt cover crops? Our study found that 89% of agricultural retailers have offered cover crop products and services in the past two years, and 94% say they want to expand these offerings in the future. Despite this willingness, the industry faces barriers to making cover crops a prominent business segment. Datu conducted a survey and follow-up interviews to better understand these advisers’ role in promoting cover crops and see what it would take to expand that role. Read more…

Media Coverage:

Hope to see you in Albuquerque, where you can get a sneak peek at Datu’s upcoming findings on cover crop products and services provided by agricultural retailers and Certified Crop Advisers (CCAs).

At the annual meetings of the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) and the Soil Health Institute (SHI), Dr. Angel Cruz will present recent survey and interview results, including that 94% of ag retailers and CCAs want to increase the cover crop products and services they offer.

See the figure below for more detail on the cover crop products and services that ag retailers and CCAs currently offer:

Datu is pleased to award to Amanda Locker a full scholarship to attend the 73rd annual conference of the Soil and Water Conservation Service (SWCS). As a graduate student in Agricultural Engineering at Purdue University, treasurer of Purdue’s SWCS Student Chapter, and the wife of an Indiana farmer, Amanda has a great deal of energy and expertise to bring to this year’s conference.

Amanda’s passion is taking Purdue’s conservation-related research and relating it to farmers in an easy-to-understand format. When she graduates this fall, she will get to practice this important work on a daily basis, as an Extension Educator with Purdue University Extension in Hamilton County, Indiana.

We are excited to encourage bright, young researchers to prepare for careers protecting the nation’s soil and water resources. Congratulations, Amanda, from the whole Datu team!

What are the top 5 challenges in providing cover crop products and services? See Datu’s recent webinar hosted by the Partnership for Ag Resource Management (PARM):
Datu seeks an experienced Senior Evaluation Consultant. The successful candidate must have experience designing and leading performance evaluations, performance monitoring systems, surveys and assessments in various international settings. Must have demonstrated business development experience, including writing proposals and M&E methodology approaches. This position is based in Datu’s headquarter office in Durham, NC and will involve international travel.
Who do farmers count on for farm management info and advice (besides other farmers)? Attend Datu’s webinar Thu, June 7 on Certified Crop Advisers and their potential role in providing cover crop products and services, hosted by the Platform for Agricultural Risk Management (PARM) Register here
Datu is offering a full scholarship to this year’s Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) International Annual Conference. We hope you’ll apply! Read more…
It wasn’t a question of knowing there were benefits to cover crops, but when Michael Willis began using them in 2012 he was curious to see if hard numbers could be put to the economics of including them in the family operation. He got his answer this year, after volunteering to be one of four multi-year case studies of the National Association of Conservation Districts and Datu Research for the past four years. Read more…
The Soil Health Institute (SHI) and its partners are working on a way to rapidly scale up the Soil Health Research Landscape Tool, an online database developed for SHI by Datu Research. The new SHI effort will use natural language processing and machine learning to “crawl” through science literature and rapidly identify papers to include in the database, using a technology developed by lum.ai — which can read a scientific paper in 10 seconds! Read more…
In a recent series of Datu Case Studies, four Midwest farmers present detailed, year-by-year budget data on their adoption of two soil health management practices: cover crops and no-till. Farmers who switch to these practices can see losses at first, but these case study farmers showed clear economic benefits. By generously sharing what they’ve learned, they are speeding up the learning curve for other farmers.

Media Coverage:

Documenting their budget numbers and the context behind them, four farmers who have adopted cover crops and/or no-till share decisions they made and why, effects on their income and yields, and lessons they learned. Read more…
We are excited to welcome Sofia Tenorio Fenton to our team. Sofia grew up in the culturally and biologically diverse state of Oaxaca, Mexico. She’ll contribute to Datu’s international development work by drawing on her dual background in environmental engineering and community-based environmental management. We see lots of international travel in Sofia’s immediate future!
Want to do cool international work for a small firm with big impact? Datu is looking for a fieldwork project manager to become an integral part of our team!
Highlighting job opportunities in the emerging industry to detect and repair leaks in natural gas facilities, national media cited our recent report prepared for EDF, “Find & Fix: Job Creation in the Emerging Methane Leak Detection and Repair Industry.” Read more…

Print Coverage:

○    TAKE A GLANCE! STOPPING METHANE LEAKS OFFERS JOB OPPORTUNITIES: Research released Tuesday, commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund, finds jobs associated with detecting and repairing methane leaks are scattered throughout 60 companies in 45 states. The majority of those companies are small businesses and have experienced up 30 percent business growth in states with methane regulations.

Broadcast Coverage:

  • KDKA-AM Radio – Pittsburgh, PA
  • WPXI-PIT (NBC)- Pittsburgh, PA
  • PCNC – Pittsburgh Cable News Channel, Pittsburgh, PA
  • WPGH-PIT (FOX) – Pittsburgh, PA
Based on primary data collected from 60 leak detection and repair firms, Find and Fix documents a growing field of service firms that reduces methane emissions and creates jobs. Read more…
At the National Association of Conservation Districts 2017 annual meeting in Denver, Datu joined a panel of Soil Health Champions who highlighted their lessons learned from soil health practices. Datu’s Rui Chen presented preliminary findings from three years of tracking the partial budgets of four farmers to quantify the effects of no-till and cover cropping on their bottom lines.
The Soil Health Institute (SHI) today announced the release of the Soil Health Research Landscape™ tool, an online library and search engine for scientists, farmers, and others interested in soil health. Datu is pleased to have provided the custom design and web development of this tool, working closely with SHI and its partners. The Soil Health Research Landscape™ tool can be accessed at www.soilhealthinstitute.org. Read more…
Louisiana is the top shrimp producer in the United States, yet these shrimpers struggle to make ends meet. On behalf of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Datu examined global and local price dynamics to help explain the widening difference between the price shrimpers receive at the dock and what customers pay at the other end of the value chain. Read more…
The Soil Health Institute (SHI) and Datu Research announced a $626,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to quantify the economic risks and rewards of soil health management. Read more…
The Soil Health Institute held its first annual meeting, bringing together 130 farmers, scientists, and conservation leaders across North America. The Institute’s mission is to safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of soils through science-based research and advancement. Datu is pleased to play a supporting role in the collaborative work of this historic undertaking. Read more…
Along with the many challenges faced by residents in changing coastal landscapes, Louisiana’s shrimpers must also contend with large fluctuations in shrimp price. To help find ways for shrimpers to better prepare for the future, Datu will analyze pricing factors and other avenues to increase profitability and economic resilience.
What are the benefits of soil-health practices such as cover cropping and no-till? Water quality, climate resilience, risk management, yield stabilization, and more. In partnership with the National Association of Conservation Districts, Datu is 18 months into a 3-year study of the economic effects on farmers. In 2017, complete findings will be shared with farmers nationwide, via NACD’s network of Soil Health Champions.
In a blog post featured by the National Association of Conservation Districts, Datu Research analysts Marie Veyrier and Sarah Mine offer a sneak peek at data from our ongoing 3-year study of the economics of conservation agriculture. Iowa farmer Frank Moore is a long-term adopter of no-till—which he has done successfully with corn and soybeans for more than 20 years. Frank adopted cover cropping in 2013 and didn’t expect the benefits to be immediate. His hunch was reinforced by a fellow farmer who said, “I’ve never seen a guy doing cover crops three years in a row that isn’t still doing it. So give it three years.” More
New York, New Orleans, and other cities vulnerable to coastal flooding are improving their resilience via strategic nature-based solutions. Plantings, oyster reefs and other cultivated materials will be crucial to these cities’ resilience strategies. In collaboration with Netherlands-based Taedoki, Datu is pleased to analyze the provision of these natural solutions with an eye to spotting and heading off potential supply chain disruptions.
It’s official: the Soil Health Institute is now launched! SHI is the brainchild of the Soil Renaissance—a two-year stakeholder effort that Datu is pleased to be a part of. After many working sessions with farmers, ranchers, soil scientists, economists, environmental interests, agribusinesses, NGOs and government agencies, SHI is off and running. Better yet, it’s in Datu’s own backyard, the Research Triangle, NC. Literally and figuratively, Soil Health Institute, we are so glad you’re here!

Datu’s Sarah Mine convened leaders in soil health for a panel session, “Documenting the Economic Benefits of Soil Health Management for Farmers.” The panel included informative presentations by Deborah Atwood, AGree; Neil Conklin, Soil Renaissance; Rich Duesterhaus, National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD); and Nick Goeser, Soil Health Partnership.

We are pleased to welcome Phillemon Mushi, Principle Agricultural Field Officer at the Arusha-based Selian Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), which operates under the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Cooperatives.

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We are pleased to welcome Ingrid Mujica, an economist with experience in research and policy analysis to promote international economic development, social upgrading and environmental sustainability. She has worked with a number of donor organizations including USAID, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the World Bank, DFID and CRS.

Read More

Monica La, Research Analyst Datu Research LLC

The UN has designated 2015 the International Year of Soils, an effort to bring attention to the long overlooked role and value of soils in addressing many of the world’s challenges, including providing for more productive and healthier food production, building resilience against erosion, nutrient loss, and drought, supporting the livelihoods of smallholder farmers with improved production and more efficient use of inputs, and even as a sink for excess carbon dioxide emissions contributing to climate change…

Read More: Soils Come into the Limelight in 2015: Growing Awareness of Soils in Addressing Global Challenges

Conservation agriculture can create far-reaching environmental and economic benefits, yet farmers may need help bearing the short-term risks and costs. This study asks if two actors in the Iowa corn value chain—landowners and insurance providers—could be tapped to support practices such as no-till, cover cropping, and crop rotation.

The authors flag an important obstacle to wider adoption: the time lag farmers face before their yields increase, which in some cases could take years. To further develop economic incentives for farmers, the study recommends systematic research on the yield effects of conservation agriculture.

At present, the study found that 23% of Iowa respondents were using cover crops, mostly on fewer than 100 acres, suggesting that farmers may be trying them out before committing to adoption on a larger scale.

Media Coverage:
Farm Journal/AgWeb
Iowa Farmer Today
Take Part
National Wildlife Federation
Big Picture Agriculture
The Grand Isle Independent
Iowa Environmental Focus
Twin Cities Daily Planet

ADM/Unilever brochure, “Sustainable Soy: Continuous Improvement Program”

Thanks to impressive gains won by years of effort by government, NGOs, and the beef industry itself, the rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has dropped considerably, falling nearly 80%. Yet sharp increases in demand from non-Western countries—highlighted by Russia’s recent embargo of Western beef—have increased demand for Brazilian beef by over 10%. This threatens to slow or even reverse hard-won progress by expanding markets that do not require deforestation-free operations.

Economic realities are an added threat for ranchers, who report that deforestation-free operations can double their production costs. Implementing a pasture management system on 145 hectares costs R2,000 (US7,000), nearly double the R7,500 cost to clear forest for beef production. Faced with falling profits, ranchers have two options: revert to deforestation, or dedicate some of their land to producing other commodities. Several Pará ranchers interviewed for the study plan to grow oil palm, taking advantage of at least three public incentive programs. Brazilian oil palm production is expected to more than double by 2020.

Media Coverage:
Washington Post
EDF Business
E&E Climate Wire

1-10% of U.S. natural gas escapes into the atmosphere instead of reaching the end consumer. The resulting methane emissions contribute powerfully to climate change, with each molecule of methane holding 84 times the warming potential of a molecule of carbon dioxide. An emerging industry of U.S. firms manufactures the equipment and services needed to control methane emissions—providing climate protection, creating jobs, and saving the oil and gas industry billions of dollars each year.

Media Coverage:
Washington Post
New York Times
Houston Business Journal
Politico Morning Energy
Fuel Fix
Denver Post
Akron Beacon Journal
The Business Journal Daily
Natural Gas Intelligence
Energy Global
Inside EPA
Inside Energy
The Advocate
Fierce Energy
Colorado News Connection
The Oklahoman
Texas Energy Report
The Energy Collective
Think Progress
Denver Business Journal

Public News Service Coverage:
New Mexico

National Association of Conservation Districts (US) $750,000
Soil Health Advocates – Promoting and Documenting the Benefits of Soil Health Management
A body of research shows the benefits of practices such as strip/no till, cover cropping and crop rotation. Some of these practices can be successful under certain soil and climate conditions, but not in others. More information is needed on what works well and under what conditions. Also, detailed economic and cost benefit information is needed. This project will overcome barriers and significantly increase the number of farmed acres nationwide that are successfully managed for soil health, appropriate to local conditions.