Growing Returns

To meet sustainability goals, food companies need to slash methane

As the recent surge in corporate net zero commitments suggests, the risks associated with climate change are top of mind for today’s leading businesses and investors.

For companies that produce, process or sell beef, pork and/or dairy, there’s an often overlooked, invisible source of climate pollution lurking in the supply chain: methane.

An extremely potent greenhouse gas, methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the short term. This means cutting methane emissions is one of the fastest ways for businesses to make progress toward their sustainability targets, meet growing stakeholder demands for bold climate action and be more resilient.

The opportunity for leadership is especially urgent in the livestock sector, which is responsible for roughly one-third of all human-caused methane emissions globally.

While some food and agricultural companies are making progress on methane, there’s still a long way to go. Here’s what these companies need to know.

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3 recent USDA wins and what the department should do next

Over the past several weeks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made important progress in advancing climate-smart agriculture and creating equitable opportunities for producers to be part of the climate solution.

Here are three recent examples of progress you may have missed in the news, plus next steps for the agency to continue this momentum. Read More »

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What does the executive order on climate-related risk mean for agricultural finance?

The recent federal executive order on climate-related financial risk institutes a whole-of-government approach to assessing and mitigating climate-related financial risk, with the goal of bolstering the resilience of financial institutions and the communities they serve.

As a sector dependent on natural resources and predictable weather conditions, agriculture is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Maintaining U.S. agriculture’s position as a global leader long into the future will require the sector to address climate risk head-on, and soon, with innovative financial solutions that move beyond managing risk and move toward financing resilience.

Here are some of the implications of the executive order for agricultural finance institutions, and opportunities for these institutions for support a more resilient and prosperous food system. Read More »

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How a data-driven approach makes profitable on-farm conservation possible

New data and insights are now available from Precision Conservation Management, a partnership organization that connects 280 Illinois and Kentucky farmers with conservation specialists from local soil and water conservation districts to provide actionable data on conservation financials.

Over the last five years, PCM gathered field-level farm management data — including the number of passes across the field, the rate of inputs into those fields, tillage passes and cover crop use — integrating that management data with cost tables created by the University of Illinois to provide farmers with the financial outcomes of different conservation practices.

Here are the top three insights from five years of farm data. Read More »

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How financial data can bridge the investment gap to scale soil health

This blog post was co-authored by Camille Morse Nicholson of the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative.

The increasing attention being directed at agriculture and the environment by policymakers and the private sector is a welcome shift — one on which the future of our agricultural system depends.

However, there remain a host of uncertainties to be resolved as we shift the system to one that not only produces food, fuel and fiber, but also delivers soil health, biodiversity and climate resilience benefits.

The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative (MRCC), a coalition of companies and NGOs, is working to break down barriers to scaling climate-smart practices, including closing the information gap on the financial benefits of conservation practices like cover crops and nutrient management, and helping farmers invest in these practices, confidently. Read More »

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Farm Credit CEOs discuss emerging opportunities to finance resilient agriculture

Climate change is already impacting farmers, both through extreme weather events and more variability in temperature, rainfall and pests. At the same time, farmers and the broader agricultural system can provide climate solutions and build resilience to reduce climate-related risk.

This dual opportunity has implications for the entire agricultural system, including the agricultural lenders who finance farms. Read More »

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How USDA can leverage a carbon bank for farmers, foresters and the climate

As the U.S. works to cut greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030, the agriculture and forestry sectors have important contributions to make to reducing emissions and sequestering carbon, as well as building resilience to climate impacts that are already here.

A carbon bank run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is one policy option to help increase and reward agriculture’s climate contributions. Although a carbon bank — broadly defined as a set of policy tools to direct funding to incentivize voluntary climate mitigation — has been the subject of heightened interest for the past several months, the concept remains amorphous because it’s new. USDA, Congress and impacted stakeholders are still figuring it out.

While the need to address climate change is urgent, it’s also essential to get a carbon bank right so that farmers, policymakers, carbon credit buyers and everyone who depends on a stable climate don’t lose faith in agricultural and forestry climate solutions.

Here are four ways that USDA can move forward on a carbon bank, even in the face of uncertainty, to leverage the power of farms and forests to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Read More »

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Top 5 priorities for USDA to support climate-smart farms and forests

“America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners have an important role to play in combating the climate crisis and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, by sequestering carbon in soils, grasses, trees, and other vegetation and sourcing sustainable bioproducts and fuels.”

— President Biden’s Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis

President Biden’s Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad directed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to seek public input on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s strategy for supporting climate-smart agriculture and forestry.

Here are the top five priorities that USDA should be focused on. Read More »

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3 ways the Growing Climate Solutions Act will help farmers and rural communities thrive

More than forty senators have co-sponsored the reintroduced Growing Climate Solutions Act — the first major piece of bipartisan legislation to help ensure that farmers, ranchers and foresters benefit from being part of the climate solution.

The bill has a real chance of becoming law this year — a sign of hope for collaboration on climate on Capitol Hill. It advanced unanimously out of the Senate Agriculture Committee and has growing bipartisan support in the House of Representatives.

Here are three ways this bill advances agricultural climate solutions, with benefits that extend far beyond the farm. Read More »

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Cargill and Soil Health Institute find farmer experience with soil health pays off. Here’s how.

Findings from a recent Soil Health Institute study add to growing evidence that soil health practices can provide financial benefits to farmers.

The Soil Health Institute, with support from Cargill, interviewed 100 farmers across nine states to measure the farm budget impacts of soil health practices.

“I believe this work is a critical area and critical question that we need to better address as we look at scaling up of soil health principles,” said Ryan Sirolli, Global Row Crop Sustainability Director at Cargill, during a webinar hosted by the Soil Health Institute. Read More »

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