A growing number of partnerships between the food chain and advocacy groups including non-government organizations (NGOs) like The Nature Conservancy,  the Soil Health Institute, the World Wildlife FundAmerican Farmland Trust and even the Environmental Defense Fund are challenging perceptions and finding common ground where little previously existed. Together, these seemingly unconventional partnerships are tackling some of agriculture and food’s biggest challenges.

More and more, these organizations have shared interests with other stakeholders in the value chain and are bringing immense resources and expertise to bear on concerns like water quality, soil erosion, food safety and ag productivity. NGOs such as these are increasingly rubbing elbows with farmers and ranchers and throughout the industry—to promote successful management practices and underwrite research future solutions—while reshaping the future of the entire food system.

These alliances have the potential to boost ag’s profile and enhance farmers’ reputations as stewards of land and animals to consumers increasingly hungry for a relationship with their food sources. NGOs have the staff, resources and knowledge to tell our story faster and wider than individual efforts can hope to accomplish. And they are often trusted consumer resources.

In many instances, NGOs have rapidly become essential partners to address key questions and concerns, provide much-needed funding and offer problem-solving collaborations to address important environmental and management issues and challenges. Therefore, the role of NGOs will only continue to grow in the coming years—especially considering budget constraints felt by public institutions and consumer demands for thoughtful, deliberate and safe food production and processing.

However, James A. Paul wisely cautioned that, “NGOs are very diverse and by no means all are equally laudable.” Thus, the value chain must evaluate these associations carefully as they determine which NGOs will best help serve the greater good.

C.O.nxt Insight

As agricultural research and education falls more and more to private entities and NGO partnerships, it alters the “way we’ve always done things” in the food system. While somewhat disconcerting, these changes also bring tremendous opportunities as we search for new and innovative ways to solve challenges and tell our story to consumers.

Interested in how emerging issues can impact your business? Contact Marcy Tessmann at marcy@co-nxt.com or call 262.563.5100.