EMERYVILLE, CALIF. — Clif Bar & Co. has launched the Clif Ag Fund, a new initiative designed to help increase the economic resilience of organic farmers in its supply chain.
Clif Bar said it is providing $500,000 in initial seed funding to a $10 million wind energy program, with other large investors slated to invest the remaining $9.5 million.
The wind energy program is a partnership between Clif Bar; Grain Millers, Inc.; Puris Proteins L.L.C.; and United Wind, Inc. Grain Millers and Puris are two of Clif Bar’s major ingredient suppliers. Through the program the companies hope to be able to provide up to 80 organic farms with long-term energy cost savings from hosting on-farm wind turbines.
“Farming has thin margins, so it’s important to take advantage of opportunities to reduce costs or improve efficiency,” said Matthew Dillon, senior director of agricultural policy and programs for Clif Bar. “The goal of the Clif Ag Fund is to invest in projects that will help our farmers be more economically resilient in producing organic crops. That benefits farmers, their communities and Clif Bar.”
As part of the wind energy program, farmers will lease a small wind turbine from United Wind that will provide them with their electricity needs at a fixed monthly rate for 20 to 30 years. The farmers won’t have to pay upfront fees or maintenance costs for the turbines.
“Farmers will experience lower energy costs from day one, and all of them will avoid rising energy prices that have eaten into their margins and placed their profitability at risk,” Mr. Dillon said. “What’s more, the installation and maintenance of the wind turbines on their farms will create skilled jobs.”
The new program will focus on farms in Midwestern states such as Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
“We’re excited to pioneer this wind initiative alongside Clif Bar & Co.,” said Russell Tencer, chief executive officer of United Wind. “It enables their farmers to access clean, low-cost, distributed wind energy and builds on Clif’s leadership in sustainability.”
Mr. Dillon said the Clif Ag Fund eventually will pursue a variety of investments on behalf of organic farmers in its supply chain. Possible investments include new technologies or infrastructure development, he said.
“The Clif Ag Fund is unique in its flexibility,” he explained. “We’re set up to look at any of the challenges facing organic farmers in our supply chain and craft innovative investment solutions to meet them.”
Clif Bar began using organic ingredients in 2003 and over the past 15 years has purchased more than 1 billion lbs of organic crops. The company is one of the largest private funders of organic research, funding 17 graduate fellowships in organic plant breeding and committing to raise $10 million to fund endowed chairs in organic plant breeding at U.S. universities.
Late last year Clif Bar received the Rabobank Award for Leader in Sustainability. The award recognizes an organization that has demonstrated a deep commitment to sustainability as its core strategy across many dimensions of its business and ambitions.
Rabobank applauded several of Clif Bar’s efforts, including the company’s sourcing of 100% green power for its operations and its willingness to set renewable energy goals for its suppliers and distribution centers.