Agribusiness Perspectives on Sustainability in Agriculture

As the market for sustainably-grown grain expands, sustainability is set to become a larger part of the conversation between agribusinesses and their customers. This emerging market is an opportunity for agribusinesses to become trusted sustainability advisors while also promoting their own products and services to support sustainable farming practices. Given these increasing market opportunities, we were curious about what ag retailers thought about sustainability and how it would shape the future of agriculture. Here’s what we learned.


Sustainability isn’t a new concept

One of the first things we asked agribusinesses to do was to grade themselves on their knowledge of sustainability. About three-quarters of the 215 survey respondents gave themselves an A or B, and nearly all respondents said they had a passable knowledge of sustainability. Ag retailers have been helping farmers conserve resources and protect their land for decades, so the results aren’t surprising. But does everyone have the same opinion of what sustainable agriculture actually is ?

Nearly all respondents said they had a passable knowledge of sustainability.

We then asked which terms best fit how they define sustainability. Conservation was the top definition, followed by renewable, continuous, regenerative, and eco-friendly. When we asked what other words they would use to define sustainability, the answers varied, but four themes emerged: preservation, longevity, profitability, and responsibility. Interestingly, these themes correspond well to the environmental, economic, and societal elements included in most definitions of sustainable agriculture.


A sustainable future for agriculture

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that focusing on sustainability is key to the future of the U.S. agriculture industry. Sustainability not only ensures that agricultural resources, land, and profits are available for future generations, but it also offers new market opportunities for the ag industry. There is a rising demand for sustainably-grown grain due to increasing numbers of companies incorporating sustainable ingredient sourcing as part of their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) or carbon-neutral goals.

73% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that sustainability is key to the future of the industry.

Incorporating sustainable farming practices that meet the specifications for grain considered to be sustainably grown can be challenging, particularly during the first few years. However, programs and incentives are available that encourage the production of sustainably-grown crops and assist growers during the transition period. For example, projects that are part of the USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities offer technical and financial assistance to producers who implement climate-smart production practices, like cover crops.


Data and technology support sustainable agriculture

We also asked ag retailers which technologies would have the most positive impact on improving the sustainability of agriculture during the 2023 planting season. Precision technology, GPS, soil and moisture sensors, weather tracking, and scouting tools were the most popular responses. These data-driven technologies will continue to have an increasing role in sustainable agriculture in the future, particularly in improving resource efficiency and helping to overcome challenges like drought, rising fuel costs, and extreme weather. Ag retailers will also be able to use data and technology to target their sustainability marketing efforts.


Agribusinesses are looking at sustainability internally, too

Some agribusinesses are also focusing on improving their own sustainability efforts. Just over a quarter of respondents (28%) said their companies had ESG priorities for this year, while another 29% of respondents weren’t sure if their companies had ESG goals. For those who did, the top priorities were environmental protection, carbon footprint reduction, and water conservation.

28% of respondents said their companies had ESG priorities for this year.

Most of our agribusiness survey respondents agreed that the future of agriculture includes sustainability. Incorporating sustainable agriculture practices creates new markets for growers, ag retailers, and grain buyers while also preserving the environment and the livelihood of future farming generations. It’s a sustainable future full of opportunity.

Access even more timely insights for today’s agribusinesses.

View the full infographic from the sustainable agriculture survey here.