"The Future. Faster.": Episode 36

Posted December 14, 2022 | By: Nutrien Ag Solutions

Food Security, Inflation, Russia-Ukraine, Supply Chains and Sustainability, with Mark Thompson

As many as 828 million people were affected by hunger in 2021—a number that is, alarmingly, growing.

And at the end of a year that has seen food security disrupted by a number of unexpected issues, like Russia's attack on Ukraine, supply chain issues and inflation, it's expected that these problems will only get more acute.

That's why it's more important than ever for the conversation around sustainable agriculture to include solutions that help boost productivity, rather than hamper it.

So in this episode, we're joined by Mark Thompson, Nutrien's Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, to talk about the intersection between food security, geopolitics, the economy and sustainability. He'll discuss Nutrien's ongoing efforts to combat these inflationary pressures and equip growers with the tools they need to do their jobs more sustainably and productively than ever.

Because, at the end of the day, it's on us to feed and fuel the world while we fight climate change.

Episode Transcript

Mark Thompson:

Just what we've experienced in 2022 alone has been absolutely unprecedented. We've had a lot of people all across Nutrien working very hard. The most interesting part about being at Nutrien for me has been the opportunity to connect that local picture of agriculture that I grew up with to a global picture of agriculture. And I would argue there's almost no better company in the world that can give you a global picture of the agricultural supply chain, certainly from a crop input standpoint, than Nutrien can.

Dusty Weis:

Welcome to The Future. Faster. A sustainable agriculture podcast by Nutrien Ag Solutions. With our very own Tom Daniel, Director, North America Retail and Grower Sustainable Ag, and Dr. Sally Flis, Senior Manager, North America Sustainable Ag and Carbon. This is your opportunity to learn about the next horizon in sustainable agriculture for growers, for partners, for the planet. To us, it's not about changing what's always worked, it's about continuing to do the little things that make a big impact.

On this week's episode, we're joined by Mark Thompson, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer for Nutrien, to talk about how Nutrien's big-picture commitment to sustainability is more important than ever after a year defined by threats of food shortages, conflict in Ukraine, and supply line issues. But if you haven't yet, make sure you're subscribed to this podcast in your favorite app. Also make sure you follow Nutrien Ag Solutions on Facebook and Instagram.

I'm Dusty Weis, along with Tom Daniel and Sally Flis, and we're joined now by Mark Thompson, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer for Nutrien. So, Mark, thank you for joining us.

Mark Thompson:

Dusty, great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Dusty Weis:

It's good to meet you. Appreciate your making the time. We've got a whole list of questions, but to just sort of get us started here, can you just tell us a little bit more about you, your background, and what it is that you do at Nutrien?

Mark Thompson:

Absolutely, happy to, Dusty. And again, I'm thrilled to be here talking about our business, talking about our customers, talking about our industry. So it's a real privilege to get to participate in things like this. So just really briefly in terms of me, I think one of the things that's important to a discussion like the one we're going to have today is where I grew up. And I grew up in Saskatchewan in Western Canada, which of course is one of the bread baskets of North America. And so I grew up with agriculture and agricultural production all around me. It was a part of our communities, it was a very respected profession, and it was something that we all understood was just necessary at a local level and something that everybody around me really felt that was something impressive and a higher calling when you watch somebody dedicate their life to growing food and providing that food to local communities, but also the world.

So I also married into a farming family that still farms in owned land in Eastern Saskatchewan. So I get to talk about agriculture at work and sometimes I get to talk about agriculture at home too, and sometimes the two are connected, which is also fun. My current role at Nutrien, as you said, is the chief commercial officer for the company. It's a very new role for me. I've been in the role for about a month now. So still getting up to speed with the team. But in this role, I've got responsibility for our global transportation, distribution and logistics, and commercial planning and sales functions for the fertilizer businesses at Nutrien. But one of the other great parts about this role is getting to work across the company also with Nutrien Ag Solutions and how we create more value for our customers, our stakeholders, our growers. And I'm really excited about that.

I've been with the company for almost 12 years in a variety of different roles. Have had the chance to work across all of our businesses, including the Nutrien Ag Solutions business in operations and commercial roles, looking at capital markets, coming to understand our investors better, working on strategy and mergers and acquisitions. So it's been a real gift to work with a company like Nutrien that touches so many things. And I think the most interesting part about being at Nutrien for me has been the opportunity to connect that local picture of agriculture that I grew up with to a global picture of agriculture. And I would argue there's almost no better company in the world that can give you a global picture of the agricultural supply chain, certainly from a crop input standpoint than Nutrien can.

Dusty Weis:

Now, Mark, global transportation, logistics, supply chain, as I understand it, this past year, those have been pretty set-it-and-forget-it kind of things, right? Not a whole lot of pressure there or global strife making things interesting for you in your new role.

Mark Thompson:

Well, look Dusty, if you talk to my new team, I'm sure they would tell you otherwise. We've had a lot of people all across Nutrien working very hard, which I think is one of the interesting topics we can talk about today is just what we've experienced in 2022 alone has been absolutely unprecedented. We've seen the tail end of the pandemic and how we've come to live with the sort of eventual aftermath of the pandemic and the impact that's had on supply chains. We've seen a devastating war in Ukraine. We've seen continued volatility and weather and climate, and the ag industry has delivered through it all.

Tom Daniel:

So, Mark, let's kind of break that down just a little bit. So one of the things that we all talk about is food security, and especially after coming through the COVID crisis, food security became a big issue, just getting product delivered to the store shelves. And in the United States, for instance, we never considered there was going to be an issue around food security for us, but it became an issue and now it's a global issue. How do you describe the issue around food security from your perspective, and why do you think it's become just so critical in everything that we deal with today?

Mark Thompson:

Yeah, Tom, it's a great question. I know it's something that you and Sally and I and the teams are thinking about and talking about all the time at Nutrien. And I think it's something that's easy to forget when you're coming to work every day in our industry, the purpose that we're serving, and certainly, food security is right at the heart of that. And when I have the privilege of talking about the company or talking about our industry or our customers in any public forum, I'm always quick to say that, "You look at our industry and we touch so many parts of society in the world that are just critical to our existence." I think two of those are addressing food insecurity and addressing climate. And there's not many industries like ours that can say they're having a real impact for the positive and can have an even bigger positive impact on two areas like that for the world.

And I'll come back to that because I think those topics are closely related and sometimes we don't think about how closely those two topics are related. But look, food insecurity is something that touches all of us. And I think for the folks that are likely going to listen to a podcast like this sitting in the developed world, we don't always have to think about this, but this is a global issue and it's a local issue. So by the numbers, when you think about how many people globally are impacted by this, it's just devastating. I mean, the numbers are staggering.

I think we saw just within the last couple of months that estimates are that the world population now hit 8 billion, on the way to what we project will be 10 billion by 2050. And today by some estimates, over 800 million people are hungry. So that's 10% of a very large world that we would define as hungry. Over 2 billion people today don't have adequate access to food. So that's really a step up from hunger, but still, folks that are really in dire need of food, and that's about a quarter of the world's population today.

And then even stepping up from there and assuming that you're not hungry or you do have adequate access to food, over 3 billion people are estimated to not have access to healthy diets and nutrition that they need to live the way that humans should be able to live. And that's an even bigger number, that's over a third of people. And so when we look around us in our communities, that means by definition there's folks all around us that are being affected by hunger. And if we look to the emerging world, this is an even bigger issue.

And so I think we all know what that looks like locally for us. If we imagine getting up in the morning and going about our day and being hungry the whole day, we know that we just couldn't operate. And that's something that a lot of us just can't even imagine. I think you take that to a global scale and you look at what that's done to the world throughout history. And this has just been a topic that you look at major conflicts throughout time. Hunger's at the root of those conflicts, and when those conflicts happen, it tends to make hunger worse.

And so I talked about climate as well at the beginning of this. And I think we talk about hunger sort of in one category, we talk about climate in another category. And I know you and Sally would agree with the work you're doing every day, these two things are absolutely related when we think about sustainable and productive agriculture. And so against a backdrop where climate, weather becoming more volatile, we're seeing more extreme weather events, we've got to think about the resilience of agricultural production and our ability to keep feeding people amid that backdrop, and having the resilience in agriculture to withstand those types of changes in the climate. And so it's not only about addressing climate and reducing our emissions as an industry, it's also about becoming more resilient and being able to grow food against a different climate backdrop. So look, this is a big issue, I could go on, but I know we all feel the same about this at Nutrien.

Sally Flis:

Mark, you mentioned a bit there that interconnectedness. And Tom, we talk all the time about what are the unintended consequences as we go down the pathways of what's the right practice or what's the change to make at an individual field or an operation or at a branch level within Nutrien. So in your previous role, Mark, as chief sustainability officer, what is Nutrien doing to try and tie together, like you say, those environmental things with climate, addressing things in the social aspects of how our practice changes and the things we do on the ground every day with growers impact that larger global landscape?

Mark Thompson:

Yeah, it's a great question, Sally. And look, I know you and Tom are right at the forefront of this with Nutrien Ag Solutions, sustainable agriculture team in terms of really answering those hard questions. How do we operationalize some of these solutions in a way that keeps our growers productive, keeps our growers profitable, and keeps our growers sustainable? So I would always get asked when I was working with the sustainability team for Nutrien, what does sustainability mean to me? I think it should mean the same thing to everybody, which is probably close to some dictionary definition of sustainability, which is long-term viability. And I think that's the name of the game.

We care about sustainability in the company because we want to be around for the long term. So that's the issues we're talking about in terms of how we treat natural resources and deal with the environment around us, how we work with our stakeholders and manage social relationships that are important to the company, how we work with our customers and really treat our customers in a way that's going to allow them to be around for the long term. I think that's the impacts that we have on the world around us. And so doing that in a way that's going to allow us to all be viable for the long term is what sustainability is all about.

So when you come back to the question on what can we do at Nutrien and what are we doing, I think as you know, we're doing a lot. So kind of chunking it into categories and maybe starting with the environmental, we've got such a unique business model because we are the largest producer of crop nutrients in the world, which means that we've got a material emissions profile primarily from the nitrogen business. And I'll talk about how we're addressing that in what's called scopes 1 and 2. But we also are the world's largest agricultural retailer. And as we know as a team, that means working with growers and providing them solutions to maximize crop productivity for the long term and be stewards of the land and address all these opportunities we're talking about to reduce emissions but produce more food while we do that.

So in scope 1 and 2, really the big lift for us is looking at our nitrogen business. And we've made a couple of key commitments. We want to be a leader in investing in low-carbon fertilizers and some of that we've already done and continue to grow like Nutrien's environmentally smart nitrogen business, which is a polymer-coated urea. But really looking at the next generation of nitrogen fertilizers and clean ammonia, where we're in the middle of evaluating what will be one of the world's largest clean ammonia facilities today at our Geismar, Louisiana plant where we'll produce nitrogen that has a 90% plus lower greenhouse gas emissions footprint than a traditional nitrogen plant, and I think that's a real achievement.

And there's more of that to come that we're looking at in terms of how we decarbonize the future of the business down the road. And certainly in scope 3, as you and Tom could probably talk to a lot better than me, we're looking at sustainability programs for growers that allow them to mitigate or even improve their impacts in growing food that the world needs on, the air, the water, soil health, and really even outcomes that start to get to high-quality nutritious food that I think consumers around the world are asking for.

And so we've got the carbon program, which is helping growers to sequester more carbon in soils using practice changes or mitigating the impacts of nitrous oxide emission through products, technologies, application methods. And both of those are real pathways to have growers continue to be recognized for the great work they do in a low-carbon economy. And then I think bigger than that, which you and Tom can probably speak to is: we are right at the epicenter as Nutrien in this equation that food companies, beverage companies, apparel companies, CPGs, are all looking back to the grower to try to make these types of changes that they believe need to be made in their supply chains and the consumers are asking for. And that relationship with the grower and really understanding the grower and caring for that grower as a customer puts us in a position to be in an immense period of change for the industry.

Tom Daniel:

Yeah. One of the things, Mark, we hear, especially when we're working with downstream companies, CPGs especially, is they're all looking for some type of linkage to the grower. They're all wanting some type of relationship or to understand the area or the practices that are being initiated on certain farms that they're drawing their product from. So there's a real interest right now and a real understanding that the grower is the one that controls a lot of the sustainability pieces that we work with. Those on-farm practices, how he uses fertilizer products, tillage, all of those things are all controlled at the farm level. And the CPGs are looking for access, how do they engage with growers and how do they help growers understand the needs of the consumer side of the market.

I believe totally that Nutrien Ag Solutions has that linkage today. In fact, our scope and size gives us an unbelievable attachment to growers, and we are that trusted advisor at the grower level, we're creating agronomic solutions that lead to the outcomes that the consumer market is looking for today. I don't think there's any company in a better place than Nutrien today to make that happen.

The second thing I would say on it too, we get a lot of concern even in our own retail occasionally around when we talk about sustainability, they think about are we going to be having our growers adopt practices, for instance, that could impact yield or could cause an issue around economic sustainability. And Mark, you've already addressed this, but our number one focus when we talk about sustainability is we have that call as a company that we're feeding the world so we can't look at practices and things that reduce yield. We're looking for ways to increase yield, but also grow that crop in a very sustainable way so that we're using the right inputs, the right timing, the right products on the acres, and we're making sure those things fit.

And I just wanted to ask you a quick question. I know your view is that we as a company, we have to balance sustainability with all the economic concerns and the concern of producing enough food to feed this world in the future.

Mark Thompson:

Yeah, absolutely, Tom. Look, you said so much that was important there. And at the end of the day, one of the things that always sticks with me as I've learned more about our business and grown in the company, I think one of the first things I heard when I joined the company was the statistic that fertilizer accounts for approximately 50% of crop yields by some estimates. And when we're talking about the nature of hunger, food insecurity, and these issues that I always say, they're not trade-offs. You can't choose between climate and food security, they're not ores, they have to be an end. You've got to solve for them together, and I think that's really what you've pointed out.

And so as you said, the focus, whether we're dealing with a customer at the retail level, Nutrien Ag Solutions, a grower really has to be on balancing these priorities in how we can come to the table and take a leadership role in doing that. And at the end of the day, we need growers to be around for the long term. So these have to be solutions that are economically viable, profitable, environmentally sustainable. So we really are trying to solve for a lot of things here, but I'm so optimistic based on what I've seen, even in the early stages of our pilots, that there's a pathway for us to do this. And really we can be a catalyst to bring so many partners together from across the food industry, across the ag industry, and even from governments, NGOs, to really understand this equation better and really appreciate the role that growers play here, which is such an important part of what Nutrien can do.

Sally Flis:

Mark, in the roles that you've had at Nutrien, you have a lot of outward-facing interactions, so people outside of ag, investors, other large companies that are interested in what we're doing on the ground. What are you hearing from those groups as you interact with them about their concerns around sustainability or food safety or food security like we've talked about so far in this episode?

And additionally, when we think about the people within our company, what advice would you give to crop consultants when they get questions from people outside the industry on these topics that can be really sensitive to address in a conversation, whether it's with a family member or a friend or just somebody that they meet in a regular interaction? And then the third part of that advice piece or question is: what advice would you give to these crop consultants or how to talk about why these items like sustainability and practice change are a priority to us as a customer, and how we want to partner with these growers in order to make this happen on the ground?

Mark Thompson:

There's a lot there, but it's really important to this whole discussion. I wish I had all the answers. I've got some perspectives, but I know we all have some perspectives on this, and this is right at the heart of what we've been working to really better understand our growers and better communicate with our growers and have us all be going the same direction on some of these big topics.

So your first question on what are we hearing outside the company today? We started this discussion I think with a little bit of a definition on sustainability and long-term viability. One of the other terms we hear a lot is ESG. And I think ESG has a lot of connotations today. ESG has been politicized, ESG means a lot of things to different people. I was just doing investor meetings earlier this week talking to some of the shareholders of the company. And really, ESG is simple. ESG is a framework that investors have to assess risks and opportunities in a portfolio company or a potential investment to really better understand those risks and opportunities and make sure that they're taking them into account when they're making an investment decision. And they tend to be in areas that investors haven't necessarily paid as much attention to or tried to quantify in the past.

So ESG stands for environmental, social, and governance factors, and really that's become a bigger part of the discussion with investors. So whether we're talking about our 30% reduction initiative in scope 1 and 2 by 2030, or whether we're talking about the 75 million acres of sustainable and productive agriculture by 2030, investors look at those as a roadmap for a company like Nutrien to really understand where we're going. And I think the more we can tell our story, the better we're understood, the better the industry's understood, but importantly, the better our growers are understood as a part of this whole equation. And I think that's true of investors, but it's also true of NGOs and governments as well to really build a better picture of how to understand our business and the stakeholders that we interact with.

I think on the crop consultant question, it's an interesting one because I've come to the conclusion that folks like me can benefit from listening more to our crop consultants and listening to our growers. And I've tried to do that through our whole sustainability journey and during the time I was the chief sustainability officer so that there's a two-way communication. And I think both of the groups, external stakeholders and our internal stakeholders like crop consultants and growers are so important to this whole discussion, because if we don't understand the practical challenges and opportunities that growers are facing in their fields every day and that our crop consultants are facing and working to make those growers as successful as they can be, then getting to 75 million acres or getting to that 30% reduction is just not going to be possible. So you need it to happen on the ground in order for it to happen all across the world. I really believe that.

So I think in terms of advice on how we would communicate, I mean I think our crop consultants know our growers just about better than anybody, and those relationships as we've come to appreciate are just so important. It's why we've built the business that we have across Nutrien within Nutrien Ag Solutions. But I think I would come back to this point that for us at Nutrien, I can say wholeheartedly, ESG is not a political issue. Sustainability is not a political issue. It's going back to that definition of we want to be viable for the long term, and in order for us to be viable for the long term, we want our growers to be around for the long term. So it's really finding these pathways that you and Tom have talked about on how do we deliver solutions at the field level that allow growers to continue to increase yield, to feed the world, to reduce environmental impact, maybe to increase profitability by being incentivized to reduce environmental impact and also giving consumers what they're asking for.

And while we could say that there are risks in that for our company and our growers, I always tell investors, "I see far more opportunity here for our industry and our customers than I do risk." And I think there's a bright future ahead if we can do all those things.

Dusty Weis:

Well, Mark, you mentioned a little while ago the importance of finding that sweet spot where sustainability includes increasing grower productivity as well, that big picture of sustainability. And certainly looking back at the year that we've had, I think it's a pretty universal consensus that that was more important than ever for feeding the world this year. And so I want to drill down with you on some of these crisis points that we've seen, the Russian attack on Ukraine, supply chain, all those other things. And we're going to do that in a moment here on The Future. Faster.

This is The Future. Faster. A sustainable agriculture podcast by Nutrien Ag Solutions. I'm Dusty Weis, along with Tom Daniel and Sally Flis, and we're speaking with Mark Thompson, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer for Nutrien. And Mark, I think 2022 was in a lot of ways kind of a shocking year for a lot of people. We take a lot for granted in our society, that food is going to be on the store shelves, that we can easily get the farm inputs that we need, that sovereign nations don't invade other sovereign nations, and a lot of these assumptions were really tested in 2022. But how did a lot of the global political and economic events that we saw unfold in 2022 really sort of reinforce that point that productivity needs to continue to be a goal in the world of sustainable agriculture?

Mark Thompson:

Yeah, Dusty, again, there's a lot there. And as you said, 2022 really was a year that has been unprecedented in a lot of ways, and it seems like we're saying that more and more all the time. So I started today by talking about a number of things that happened in 2022, but you called out in your comments one of the most devastating, I think for humanity and certainly for the world today, which is Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And there's a lot of reasons why this really matters from a food security perspective, but also from a global and societal perspective. And I can also talk about some of the things that Nutrien has done to take a leadership position in the wake of that to make sure that we continue to feed the world in the ways that we can and play our leadership role in the industry.

But to step back from all of this, the war in Ukraine didn't happen against a backdrop of a food-secure world. These trends that we're talking about today have been in place for some time. As we sit here at the end of 2022, we're about to see global grain stocks-to-use ratios potentially get to the lowest levels in 25 years, the sixth consecutive year of declines, all of which has been pressuring food security. And then we saw the war breakout in February of 2022. And as much as Western Canada is a bread basket of the world or the US is a bread basket of the world, as I talked about earlier, Russia, Ukraine really is a region of the world, which is also a much-needed bread basket.

And so just by the numbers, when you look at grains and oil seeds production in that region, those two areas of the world together account for about 20% of corn and canola trade, about 30% of wheat and barley trade. And in some of the niche oils like sunflower oil, I mean, you're over 60% of trade. So just to think of the impact that had on the world to see supply chains be disrupted and that production be at risk at a time when food insecurity was already rearing its head structurally in our society, I mean, it's just so impactful.

I mentioned also earlier that fertilizers by some estimates account for approximately 50% of crop yields, and Russia in particular is a very significant producer and exporter of fertilizers. So when you look at potash, Russia and Belarus account for about 40% of global potash trade. If you look at a fertilizer like nitrogen, depending on which product you're looking at, Russia's anywhere between 15% and 25% of global trade as an example. So the disruptions caused by the war and the sanctions and physical restrictions have been very impactful.

So in a moment like that, as Nutrien, we had to react very quickly and look across our business to say, what can we do to fill the gap to serve our customers, to address this potential detrimental impact beyond what we were already seeing from a food security perspective. And there's a couple key actions we've mobilized that are really important. I think the first is looking to increase potash production in our fertilizer business, going from a capacity today that's around 15 million tons to closer to 18 million tons over the next three years. And we're really the only producer globally that has the ability to do that in a low cost and short time horizon fashion. So we're looking at that and actioning that now. We've invested in nitrogen brownfield capacity additions over the past few years in addition to our GHG reduction initiatives to make sure that we have more nitrogen available for growers and customers that need it.

And then I think importantly when you look at where the Nutrien Ag Solutions business operates around the world, we're in North America, we're in South America, and we're in Australia. And interestingly enough, those are all the geographies that are going to be looked to, to increase productivity because those are the geographies that produce many of the same crops that we've lost or that are at risk from Russia and Ukraine, and as investment to Russia and Ukraine potentially decreases over the next few years.

So I hear people in our company talk about their pride in working for Nutrien all the time. A close colleague of mine likes to say that Nutrien is one of the most important companies in the world. That's a big statement, but I think in a moment like this, that's probably true. So it's a big task ahead of us, but I think it's really inspiring folks in the company to do what they can to help this situation.

Sally Flis:

Well, and to bring it back to how it looks at home, I just was exchanging messages with a family member on Facebook about the cost of something like a Wheat Thins in the store. And she was saying that, "Locally, it's now 5.25 a box for her to buy Wheat Thins." And my comment back to her was, "Yeah, we had crop failure in three of the biggest wheat-producing states in the US, Tom." Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado have had wheat failure or significant decreases in number of acres where wheat was actually harvested. And then you add in all of these global complexities to what does that mean for the wheat price? What does that mean for the fertilizer price? What is the return? And it gets really complicated to talk about all of it, but it's a story that we've got to help put out there because people tend to...

And we see this in sustainability too, that they want to blame it on one thing. Well, if growers just did this or if the fertilizer company just did this, or if somebody else just did this one thing, we'd fix it. But it's so complex now to address any of these problems that it really is hard to communicate back to consumers or to growers or crop consultants why they see these fluctuations in any product they purchase.

Tom Daniel:

Yeah, and Mark, I would ask you a question on this. In my soils days from my agronomy background, I always talked about balance. Everything needs to be in balance. And even in our global situations on food security and fertilizer management, all those pieces, I don't think we as an industry may be recognized. Especially at the crop consultant level, we recognize that just how thin a line of change can absolutely throw out of balance everything that we deal with. And that to me has just become so apparent in the last 18 months. We talk about the situation in Ukraine, and I don't think anyone really thought about the amount of fertilizer production that's produced in Russia or being produced out of Belarus, for instance. And kind of give us a little background on some of that if you could.

Mark Thompson:

Well, look, in addition to the stats that I already was talking about, Tom, in terms of fertilizers produced around the world, I mean, this is a global industry. If there is a definition of a global industry in our economy, agriculture is that. And so I think these situations where we see food supplies come under stress, whether that's during the COVID crisis where all of a sudden we saw domestic and international borders closing, people started to think about things very differently and the dialogue started changing. So I know many of the conversations I was having within and outside of the company started to talk about the important aspects of labor that support the agricultural economy. Started to talk about raw materials that we don't think about that need to cross borders for us to produce fertilizers, for us to produce the products that growers need, and that our industry needs to continue to produce food.

And so I think our role in that moment, given the position that we have in the supply chain to be able to see all these things, as Sally commented on, is really to be communicating with the right stakeholders and telling that story on behalf of our industry and working with our peers and customers and those all around us in the ag industry to tell those stories so they're better understood by governments, policy-makers, and everyone that we need to be rowing the same direction for these things to go right.

And I think when you look to the future, I don't think we can probably envision a world where we're not going to have surprises that are going to impact supply chains, whether that's weather-related surprises, whether that's related to the type of devastating conflict that we've seen this year in Ukraine, or whether that's related to other factors that we can't even contemplate today. So I come back to this concept of how do we make our industry more resilient, how do we make growers more resilient so that in the face of these shocks we can still deliver, because the world needs us to.

Tom Daniel:

So, Mark, if you were talking to an employee today, someone in our retail locations, one of our branches, maybe somebody at the fertilizer terminals, somebody that's in logistics and warehouse regardless, and you wanted to stress to them the importance that they have in this agriculture supply chain and how important it is for them to be engaged in this process, how would you communicate with them today on that?

Mark Thompson:

Look, I think it's one of the most important questions we can ask, and one of the most important things we can dedicate our attention to in a company like Nutrien where we've got over 25,000 people around the world, many different countries, many different businesses, serving many different stakeholders. And so I think it's absolutely critical for an organization like Nutrien to be successful for the long term and to perform at our best. Everybody does have to see the important role they play in leveling up to this bigger purpose that we talk about across the company of growing our world from the ground up and feeding the future. And everybody does have a role in that. So if you're at a retail location, that local relationship with the grower and all that we do to support that grower is ultimately making Nutrien successful, but more importantly, making that grower successful and serving these noble purposes that we've talked about today, and I think that's extremely uplifting.

If you're working at a terminal in the Midwest or in Canada, you really play a critical role because we know that when product needs to get to ground, the window to do that with weather and all the other constraints on rail and logistics is very small. So being able to move our product around and get it to customers when and where they need it is so critically important. If you're sitting in one of the corporate offices or the administrative offices of the company, everything you're doing is supporting the company's ability to continue to operate is a going concern and service our customers and make sure that we're able to do all the things that we do on a regular basis. And so I think all of us if we step back, can really find a path to understand how we serve that bigger purpose at Nutrien, and that is so important.

I think one of the other things I would go back to though is it's really important to listen, whether we're listening to folks in the terminals or at a retail location, these are all the folks that make the business run on a daily basis, and these are the people that are ensuring that we meet the needs of our customers and our growers on a daily basis. And so listening to these folks, again, understanding practical challenges, the real opportunities, will allow all of us to construct a strategy and a direction for the company that serves all of these purposes and really make us successful and all of those around us, and to be able to communicate to the world about those things like Sally has talked about. So that is just so important.

And so, again, I think there can be a lot of reasons that we look at a year like 2022 and we say, man, there are a lot of challenges out there in the world, but I think if we step back from that, we are doing so much that's important. And this is an industry that is purpose-driven, it's so exciting to be here. And the things that we're working on and our employees are working on and our industry and growers are working on, are going to shape the future for society, and that's just so amazing.

Sally Flis:

So Mark, we've touched on a lot of heavy and challenging and developing things in our industry over the podcast today. With us coming to the close of 2022, what's one thing you're really excited about looking at 2023 and some of the things that Nutrien and Nutrien Ag Solutions have coming up?

Mark Thompson:

Yeah. If you had about four or five hours, Sally, we could probably get through the list of things I'm excited about. So I am excited about a lot, and I see that excitement when I talk to employees around the company, and I know that's true in working on some of the key initiatives that you and Tom and the team are driving with our growers in our field in Nutrien Ag Solutions from a sustainability perspective. So look, I think first and foremost, all across the company, we are innovating to meet the needs of tomorrow. That's true of the increases in production and the expansions that I talked about in the NPK production business, whether that's clean ammonia, bringing more potash to the world, reducing our greenhouse gas emissions footprint, providing new products that lose less fertilizer to the environment and put more in the soil or in the crop, all of those things are immensely exciting to me.

And then I think when we look at the Nutrien Ag Solutions business, there is so much to be excited about. The innovation that's happening at the field level in terms of better understanding the data around our own business, how our growers can be successful, and how we address these challenges on sustainable and productive agriculture, whether that's in our precision ag business with new technologies, whether that's our digital platform where we're innovating, or whether it's these new sustainability solutions that are providing value for downstream partners and consumers, there's just so much exciting that I know is going to create value for us as a company, but create more value for our customers and our stakeholders all around us.

And so I think we step back from all of that. And again, even though there are challenges all the time, this is an industry that delivers. And we can see that because the crisis that has played out in 2022 in Ukraine and the other challenges we've seen, for any other industry, maybe they would've been more devastating, but not this industry because this industry has innovated and performed over time, and I know that we'll continue to do that. So I think that's what keeps me optimistic and excited because we know that 10 years from now, our industry and our business will look different, and we're part of shaping that, which is just amazing.

Dusty Weis:

Mark, you're right, the agriculture industry really stepped up to the plate in 2022 and did a service to the entire world in doing so. And certainly, it's been a trying year. The threat of hunger still hangs over us, but it's just another reminder why the work of growers and the work you all are doing at Nutrien and Nutrien Ag Solutions is so vitally important. And Mark, you mentioned how proud your team is to do the work that they do. I think that's awesome. I think that everyone in this industry deserves to feel proud after the year that we've had. So Mark Thompson, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer for Nutrien, thanks for all you do. And thanks for joining us on this episode of The Future. Faster.

That is going to conclude this edition of The Future. Faster. The Pursuit of sustainable success with Nutrien Ag Solutions. New episodes arrive every other week, so make sure you subscribe on your favorite app, and join us again soon. Visit futurefaster.com to learn more. The Future. Faster. Podcast is brought to you by Nutrien Ag Solutions with executive producer Connor Erwin and editing by Larry Kilgore III. And it's produced by Podcamp Media, branded podcast production for businesses, podcampmedia.com. For Nutrien Ag Solutions, thanks for listening. I'm Dusty Weis.


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