WASHINGTON — Sysco and Cargill announced on April 19 a partnership to help the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and ranchers create one of the largest sustainable beef cattle grazing efforts in the nation.

The public-private partnership includes $5 million in funding from Sysco and Cargill to implement grazing practices over the next five years across 1 million acres in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado. According to Cargill, the Southern Great Plains is responsible for approximately 30% of the beef produced in the United States. According to the companies, the improved grazing practices will promote biodiversity, enhance soil health, increase carbon storage and protect the livelihoods of ranchers and rural communities in the region.

“The contributions from ranchers in the Southern Great Plains to protect land, resources and ecosystems are crucial to addressing climate change,” said Misty High, president of foodservice with Cargill Protein – North America. “We believe agriculture is how we can create a more resilient food system and efforts to scale sustainable grazing through the Southern Plains Grassland Program are a strong example of that belief in action.”

The Southern Plains Grassland Program has the potential to sequester up to 360,000 tonnes of carbon per year, or the equivalent of removing 78,000 passenger vehicles from the road in one year.

As a major global purchaser and distributor of a wide variety of beef products, Sysco's sustainable beef sourcing commitments aim to help procure and produce beef products that support the industry while providing positive environmental and social impacts.

“The Southern Plains Grassland Program is a model for the impact possible through cross-industry collaboration,” said Neil Russell, senior vice president of corporate affairs and chief communications officer at Sysco. “It's the level of impact that, at Sysco, we understand is critical to protect and preserve the environment for future generations. The threat posed by climate change is a collective challenge, and together we can drive action to address this challenge.”

The NFWF will manage the grant program and enable nonprofit conservation groups, ranching collaboratives/associations, and agencies at the state and local level to engage with ranchers.

“This new collaboration between Sysco, Cargill and NFWF will bring vital financial and technical resources to the ranches of the Southern Plains, a region with incredibly productive grasslands, wildlife and a rich heritage of family ranching,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and chief executive officer of NFWF. “Public-private partnerships are the key to helping agricultural producers voluntarily improve their operations while also enhancing natural resources.”

This project falls under Cargill’s BeefUp Sustainability, an initiative introduced in 2019 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the company’s North American beef supply chain 30% by 2030.