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The Mosaic Company Joins Global Harvest Initiative
Global Harvest Initiative is pleased to announce that The Mosaic Company, a global leader in crop nutrition, will be contributing its expertise in nutrient stewardship and sustainable production to GHI’s private sector policy voice. Ben Pratt, Vice President, Corporate Public Affairs at The Mosaic Company, will serve on GHI’s Board. In an interview with Dr. Margaret Zeigler, Executive Director of GHI, Ben describes Mosaic’s history, their contribution to the agricultural value chain, and their commitment to sustainability.
Tell us about The Mosaic Company – its history, its global reach, and its part in the agricultural value chain.
Many people are surprised by the fact that half of all crop yields are attributed to fertilizer. We would not be able feed the world without it. Mosaic plays an essential role in the agricultural value chain by producing 20 million tons of phosphate and potash fertilizers every year – making us the largest combined producer of these two nutrients in the world. We mine phosphate rock in Central Florida and potash in Saskatchewan, Canada. Mosaic products are sold in 40 countries; our main markets are North America, Brazil and South America, India, and China. We have approximately 9,000 employees who are involved in every aspect of the crop nutrition business.
We were formed a little over 10 years ago out of a merger between Cargill Crop Nutrition and IMC Global – two companies with more than a century of experience in mining, manufacturing, packaging and selling potash and phosphate fertilizer products.
We are excited that Mosaic is joining GHI during FAO’s “Year of Soils” which is bringing global attention to the critical importance of nutrients that make soil healthy and productive. Mosaic believes that “nutrient stewardship” is the key. What is this and why is it important?
We believe potash and phosphate fertilizers make a vital contribution to healthy, productive soils. Mosaic is engaged in the activities promoting the Year of Soils – for example, we are founding members of the Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture at FAO. In addition, our Sustainability Report for 2015 will feature the Year of Soils.
Our products are essential, but responsible use is critical. Nutrient stewardship means helping farmers avoid losing their nutrients to the environment, for example losing phosphorus into waterways. Reducing the loss of these precious nutrients is in everyone’s best interest. We educate and encourage the agricultural retailers who sell, and often apply, our products to practice the “4 Rs”: use the right amount of product, at the right time, using the right source (or product), and at the right rate. These practices maximize the benefit of our products to increase productivity while reducing the environmental impact.
Most people’s only practical experience with fertilizer is what they buy at the garden center. How should we understand “fertilizer” in the context of twenty-first century agriculture? What are the benefits to farmers and consumers?
Our products are primarily sold in bulk to agriculture retailers, who then sell them to farmers.
There are a couple things to keep in mind about the role of fertilizer in agriculture today. First, making mineral fertilizers is an incredibly complex and resource -intensive process. Mosaic uses very sophisticated technologies and techniques to make our products safely and to minimize our impact on the environment. By using these technologies efficiently and productively, we are creating value for both the consumer and the farmer. Fifty percent of the crops produced globally are attributable to fertilizer. With population growth and climate change, we cannot feed the world without it – it’s that simple.
For farmers, land is their primary asset and they need to maximize revenue per acre. The crop nutrition technologies we have are helping farmers be more productive, preserve the health of their soil, and minimize their environmental impact. Unfortunately, these benefits are not enjoyed by every farmer around the world. Import and transport costs make fertilizer much more expensive in places like Africa, where farmers have significantly lower incomes. Ironically, the input they need to be more productive and profitable is often out of their price range.
Tell us about how the Mosaic Villages Project is helping smallholder farmers make their soils healthier and more productive. What are some of the exciting outcomes to date?
Our Villages Project is a simple project with big impact. We are working with smallholder farmers in India and Guatemala, who are basically farming for subsistence, and providing them with access to affordable fertilizer and the training to use it. These farmers’ lives are being transformed as a result. Many farmers’ yields have increased three to five times. Now the farmers are growing enough to eat and enough to sell. It isn’t unusual in these villages for adult males to leave after the harvest season to find additional employment. With increased yields and incomes, they can stay with their families year round.
Sometimes it can be hard to convince people to try something new. But when they see the difference just a bottle cap-full of fertilizer per plant can make, they jump at the chance. Thousands of farmers, and tens of thousands of their families, friends, and neighbors have benefited from the Villages Project. We are working with our NGO partners to extend it so more farmers can benefit.
Corporate social responsibility and food safety are increasingly important to consumers. How is Mosaic addressing consumer concerns about how fertilizers are produced?
Fertilizer cannot be produced without disturbing the environment and Mosaic understands that we have to be responsible stewards of the land and natural resources we use. We reclaim every acre of land we mine, returning the land to productive use for wildlife and people. Ninety percent of the water we use is recycled. This year we will be announcing new targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and water use.
Environmental sustainability is part of Mosaic’s DNA and it extends to every level of the company. Our employees take pride in operating sustainably and responsibly. Mosaic has been consistently listed in the 100 Best Corporate Citizen List by Corporate Responsibility Magazine.
GHI emphasizes the importance of sustainable agricultural value chains that conserve natural resources, adapt to climate change, and improve people’s lives and livelihoods. From your perspective, what is the role of the private sector in achieving these goals?
We are engaged in several multi-stakeholder collaborations, such as Field to Market. We share the concerns and goals of many environmental groups and we have excellent partnerships with The Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society.
Nonetheless, I think the private sector has to drive both intensification and sustainability in agriculture. People may not realize it, but production agriculture is answering the call for sustainable intensification – we have an incentive to act, and to act quickly. Responsible companies can have an efficient impact on the safety, productivity, and sustainability of the agricultural value chain.
What is your role at Mosaic and why did you decide to work there?
I am responsible for Corporate Public Affairs here at Mosaic. Together, my team and I work on our sustainability and corporate social responsibility initiatives, internal and external communications, and social media. I have been at Mosaic for a little over three years – and the path that took me here was a little unusual. I worked in the financial services industry, including on Wall Street, but I decided I wanted to join an organization with a commitment to making a difference in the world. I was drawn by Mosaic’s mission – to help the world grow the food it needs. It may seem simple, but this goal drives everyone who works here. The people of Mosaic are incredibly talented and very passionate about what they do.