CLARION - One might think that Coca-Cola and Cargill would seem out of place at a farmer-oriented field day where reducing nitrate runoff was the focus.
But they were present on Aug. 27 in Wright County to learn and monitor what farmers are hearing and doing to reduce nitrate runoff and leaching, plus what is planned for additional sustainable farming methods.
Both companies said they have sustainability goals and present to learn about how corn is grown, said Bruce Voigts, of the Natural Resources and Conservation Service, based in Clarion.
Coca-Cola representatives, Karin Holt and contract ecologist, Rena Stricker, were at the meeting because Coca-Cola has invested in local farming projects to meet its 2020 goals for sustainable supply chain agriculture and water neutrality.
Conserving water through efficient corn farming can help contribute toward the company's goal to return to nature the equivalent amount of water used in their beverages and production. Coca-Cola is an end user of corn sugar, an ingredient which is used in some of its products..
Likewise, Marty Muenzmaier, Cargill's sustainability director for its corn milling business, attended because that corporation buys corn from Iowa and connects producers to customers such as Coca-Cola.
"We're here to see sustainable agriculture in action," said Muenzmaier. "Nitrogen management, tiling and cover crops all pay a part in addressing the sustainable production of corn and other row crops," Muenzmaier said. "It's great to see our sponsorship of the Boone River watershed project paying off in practice."
Connie Roys, Natural Resource and Conservation Service district conservationist in Wright County, said Coca-Cola and Cargill "want to 'give back' what is taken out."
They want to work with the Boone River Watershed Initiative partners to reach sustainability goals.
Roys said the companies have helped fund the Field to Market Fieldprinting Calculator to document environmental impacts of farming management practices for benchmarking continuous improvement.
Coke has invested in NRCS, Iowa Soybean Association, and Iowa Corn Growers Association farming partner projects including nutrient management, hydrogel experiments to hold water in soils, cover crop promotion, and fertilizer optimization to reduce green house gases by providing chlorophyll meters which measure the amount of nitrogen in corn leaves to detect if there is a nitrogen deficiency.