This May, Hirtzler writes, Kaplan and a colleague were the first Wal-Mart employees ever to attend the annual crop tour across Kansas, the nation's No. 1 winter-wheat state. "The tour has been a rite of passage for traders, analysts, academics and buyers for the past half-century. The aim is simple: Use Wal-Mart's commercial muscle to get its Great Value-branded flour and wheat products from field to shelf more efficiently, using less carbon. In the process, however, Wal-Mart may end up initiating transformative changes in the way U.S. farmers grow wheat, lowering costs and improving yields for a crop that has failed to keep pace with the dramatic improvements in sustainability of other commodities such as corn and cotton."
The point is won, of course, with leverage and the net is an environmental wallop. "As it continues to buy more and more wheat to support its in-house brand, Wal-Mart believes it can use its muscle to bring changes to the agricultural landscape by getting farmers to adopt more progressive techniques and labeling the flour they sell as a sustainable product. In 2010, Wal-Mart's store brands had a 4.4 percent share of the $14.35 billion U.S. packaged and industrial bread market, up from a 3.7 percent market share in 2006, according to research firm Euromonitor International." (Read more)