Chipotle offers young farmers 3-year contracts in search for local ingredients

Chipotle Mexican Grill said it’s planning to offer three-year contracts to young farmers in an effort to reinvigorate the industry while also increasing its local food sourcing.

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The burrito chain said it would start with contracts with under-40 beef, pork and dairy suppliers who meet its “food with integrity” standards — the restaurant said it wants pasture-raised animals without nontherapeutic antibiotics or added hormones.

Chipotle said it wanted to support young farmers. The industry is currently aging, with the average age of farmers now about 58, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And the industry is expected to hit more than $415 billion in debt this year, with more than half of U.S. farms losing money last year.

Chipotle announced its "financial commitment to help drive the future of farming for younger generations." (Credit: Chipotle Mexican Grill)

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The chain is aiming to source more ingredients from local farmers. As of last year, Chipotle said 29 million pounds of produce — 11 percent of the produce it served — was grown by its 43 “local growers” who are located within 250 miles of its distribution centers.

“Farmers committed to farming in a sustainable and ethical way need help to have a chance to succeed — both for the sake of the future of real nutritious food and the communities that rely on those farms,” Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol said in a press release.

In this Monday, Oct. 28 2019, photo, a farm is watered in Florida City, Fla, just east of the main entrance to Everglades National Park. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

AMERICAN FARMS ARE BILLIONS IN DEBT. THE NUMBERS ARE EYE-POPPING

Andrew Walmsley, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, told FOX Business that he couldn’t speak to the requirements of the contracts without knowing the details, but said the bureau hopes the announcement will provide “an opportunity for interested farmers and ranchers to manage risk and market their products while still providing topnotch care for their animals.”

“We welcome recognition of the challenges facing farmers, particularly young farmers, and applaud efforts to support them,” Walmsley said.

Chipotle said it’s also planning to help young farmers via “seed grants.” The chain plans to donate $1 from every entrée it sells through its app or website on Friday, Dec. 6 — up to $250,000.

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It will also donate $1 to the National Young Farmers Coalition for every post with the hashtag #farmers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter on Jan. 1, 2020 — also up to $250,000.