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New Science Advisory Council Looks to Shape Ag Sustainability Measurement

In collaboration with supply chain partners, Field to Market demonstrates use of its Fieldprint® Calculator and tests its utility at the grower level through 22 projects in 15 States. | Image credit: Field to Market

Yesterday, Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture announced the launch of a new Science Advisory Council focused on informing the membership-based organization’s “science-based approach to delivering sustainable outcomes at the field and landscape levels.” Comprised of 12 experts, the Council is being asked to develop a sustainability standard for commodity crop production in the United States that “helps catalyze continuous improvement in environmental outcomes.”

“As Field to Market continues to refine and expand our Supply Chain Sustainability Program in the U.S., we are committed to developing greater involvement from and connections with the scientific community,” said Field to Market President Rod Snyder. “This Council will strengthen Field to Market’s science-based approach by providing expert guidance on complex sustainability issues of importance to the entire food and agricultural supply chain.”

Field to Market has more than 100 members from across the agricultural supply chain, including grower organizations; agribusinesses; food, beverage, restaurant and retail companies; conservation groups; universities and public sector partners. Among them are brands and organizations including BASF, Bunge, Cargill, Coca-Cola, Dow AgroSciences, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), General Mills, Kellogg, McDonald’s, Monsanto, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Syngenta, The Nature Conservancy, Unilever, Walmart, and the U.S. World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Several of these brands were also among the first to join the World Food LCA Database (WFLDB), aimed at developing a comprehensive database for food and beverage life cycle assessments (LCAs), back in 2013.

The organization says it is committed to defining, measuring and advancing the sustainability of food, fiber and fuel production, and aims to ensure that its approach to measuring, monitoring and reporting on environmental outcomes is “grounded in the best available science.” Its program is centered around metrics for environmental sustainability that focus on outcomes within a grower’s control: Biodiversity; Energy Use Efficiency; Greenhouse Gas Emissions; Land Use Efficiency; Soil Carbon; Soil Conservation; Water Quality; and Water Use Efficiency.

Field to Market’s Science Advisory Council includes the following members:

  • Dr. Edward M. Barnes is senior director of Agricultural and Environmental Research at Cotton Incorporated where he has managed agricultural engineering related projects for the last thirteen years, including programs on precision farming, ginning, irrigation management, conservation tillage, and cotton harvest systems. He previously spent seven years as an agricultural engineer for the USDA, developing uses of remotely sensed data for agricultural management, with a focus on water optimization.
  • Dr. Bruno Basso is a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and W.K. Kellogg Biological Station at Michigan State University. Dr. Basso’s research integrates crop modeling with remote sensing to understand spatial and temporal variability of crop yield. He is the lead author of SALUS, and principal investigator of the USDA Precisa project, a multimillion research effort on climate-water-nutrient smart technologies.
  • Dr. Marlen Eve serves as the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) national program leader for soil and air within the Natural Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Systems program area. Dr. Eve oversees ARS research on all aspects of soil and air management, including soil conservation and soil carbon storage; nutrient management to reduce losses to air and water; and livestock methane emissions and livestock manure emissions and odors. Prior to joining the ARS, Dr. Eve directed the development of new tools for farm-scale estimation of greenhouse gas emissions and reductions within USDA’s Climate Change Program Office within the Office of the Chief Economist.
  • Dr. Sasha Gennet is a senior scientist in the California Working Lands program at The Nature Conservancy. Dr. Gennet is engaged in planning, strategy development and research related to conservation in and of rangeland and row crop agriculture. Some of her current collaborative research projects are understanding the drivers and barriers to implementation of biodiversity-beneficial on-farm practices in produce; benefits and costs of implementing diversified farming practices on produce farms in the Central Coast of California; and ecological and policy study of application of organic amendments in rangelands in California for climate change mitigation.
  • Dr. Patricio Grassini is an Assistant Professor of Agronomy & Horticulture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a fellow of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute and the Center for Great Plains Studies. He is co-leading the Global Yield Gap Atlas project, in addition to leading a project to benchmark on-farm yields and input-use efficiency of maize-soybean systems in the U.S. Corn Belt and another project on yield forecasting.
  • Dr. Marty Matlock is executive director of the University of Arkansas Office for Sustainability and professor of ecological engineering in the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department. Dr. Matlock received his Ph.D. in biosystems engineering from Oklahoma State University, is a registered professional engineer, a Board Certified Environmental Engineer, and a Certified Ecosystem Designer. The focus of his research is development of technologies and processes to increase the resilience and effectiveness of human-dominated ecosystems.
  • Dr. Eileen McLellan is a senior scientist in the Ecosystems Program for Environmental Defense Fund. Dr. McLellan received her Ph.D. in Earth Science from Cambridge University (U.K.) and spent 16 years as a faculty member at the University of Maryland before taking a position as a Congressional Science Fellow on Capitol Hill in 2000. Following that experience, she has held a variety of positions related to environmental and natural resource issues in the private and nonprofit sector. She is currently focusing on improving water quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in agricultural landscapes of the Midwest and East Coast.
  • Dr. Clifford S. Snyder has served as the nitrogen program director for the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) since 2007 and is an adjunct professor in the Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences Department at the University of Arkansas. He is a Fellow in the American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America, and he has served in different advisory roles with the EPA and USDA. Dr. Snyder’s current responsibilities include coordinating North American and international efforts of IPNI dealing with environmental issues related to nitrogen fertilizer use in agriculture.
  • Dr. Ed Spevak is currently the curator of invertebrates at the Saint Louis Zoo. Dr. Spevak has dedicated the last 37 years of his career to the conservation of invertebrates and vertebrates working in zoos and aquariums as a zoo curator and small population biologist. He is the director of Saint Louis Zoo’s WildCare Institute Center for Native Pollinator Conservation, serves as the Programme Officer for the IUCN SSC Bumblebee Specialist Group, co-chairs the Bumble Bee Task Force of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign and is on the Steering Committees of the Honey Bee Health Coalition and Keystone Monarch Collaborative.
  • Dr. Mark Tomer is a research soil scientist at the USDA’s National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, Iowa. Dr. Tomer’s research has included watershed assessment studies under USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), a project focused on determining effects of agricultural conservation practices on soil, water quality and hydrology. He has also led the development of the Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF), a conservation planning strategy that utilizes computerized mapping technologies to help conservation planners and landowners identify specific options for placing a variety of conservation practices across a watershed for water quality improvement.
  • Dr. Chris van Kessel joined University of California-Davis in 1996 after he spent ten years at the University of Saskatchewan (Canada) where he was involved in nutrient cycling in semi-arid cropping systems. Since 2002, he has been the chair of the Department of Plant Sciences. Dr. Van Kessel currently directs a research program on increasing fertilizer use efficiency by crops and reducing nitrogen losses. Specifically, his group is investigating how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve nutrient use efficiency in flooded rice systems. The concept that greenhouse gas emissions in agricultural systems should be linked to productivity indicators is being explored.
  • Dr. Tristram West is the senior technical advisor for the U.S. Department of Energy. Dr. West’s research areas include the impacts of human activities on the carbon cycle and on net greenhouse gas emissions, influences of policy on terrestrial carbon dynamics and the use of GIS and remote sensing to improve our understanding of terrestrial ecosystems and net carbon flux. Dr. West holds a B.S. in agriculture from the University of Kentucky and a M.S. and Ph.D. in agronomy from Ohio State University.

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