Growing Returns

Small North Carolina farms find profitability in climate resilience

Farms across North Carolina are experiencing more variable and extreme weather associated with climate change, including hotter nights and more frequent and severe rainfall. Small farms are adapting to these changes by adopting climate-resilient practices that help buffer weather extremes and improve soil health.

Measuring and communicating the financial costs and benefits of these practices is important to help more farmers adopt them profitably and find financial support for the transition. Cooperative extension agents — small farms’ closest technical advisers — will increasingly need to inform farmers about climate-resilient practices and their financial impacts.

Environmental Defense Fund and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Cooperative Extension collaborated with three small North Carolina farms to measure the financial impacts of adopting reduced tillage, high tunnels and cover crops. The results are summarized in a new report and set of case studies. Read More »

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How credit and climate change collide for Black farmers in Georgia

Earlier this week, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund hosted a listening session for its Black farmer-members in Georgia in collaboration with Environmental Defense Fund. The federation is a nonprofit cooperative association of Black farmers, landowners and cooperatives based primarily in the Southern states. In the listening session, 15 farmers discussed their ongoing concerns about access to credit and climate change impacts, as well as how coalition building and advocacy can support them in continuing to farm. Read More »

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How regional accounting can boost the integrity of the voluntary soil carbon market

As enthusiasm for agricultural soil carbon as a climate mitigation strategy grows, carbon registries and private companies are developing carbon crediting protocols to bring soil carbon credits into the voluntary market. Credits need to accurately represent net greenhouse gas reductions and be equivalent to each other.

An analysis by Environmental Defense Fund and Woodwell Climate Research Center found that this isn’t the case across the board, which creates uncertainty and confusion in the marketplace.

In a new paper published in Science, scientists at these organizations recommend a regional framework to boost market integrity and support farmers, governments and the private sector in delivering high-quality credits.

Read More »

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How banks can move toward net zero agriculture portfolios

Banks representing over 40% of global bank lending have joined the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative’s Net Zero Banking Alliance and committed to align their lending and investment portfolios with zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. By 2024, participating banks with substantial loan portfolios in agriculture will need to set net zero targets for the sector and rapidly embark on reducing emissions.

For this to be possible, banks must accurately measure the emissions they finance in agriculture. This is a particular challenge in agriculture, a sector that includes a vast array of different crops and livestock, farm sizes, and access to tools and technology. Read More »

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Fostering innovative finance in the agriculture value chain

Companies throughout the agriculture value chain have set commitments to reduce the environmental impacts of agricultural production. They’re now engaged in the hard work to achieve those goals by developing programs to increase farmer adoption of conservation practices.

As value chain sustainability programs mature, there is increasing attention on the financial barriers to the implementation of sustainable agriculture at scale — and questions about how financial innovation can overcome those barriers.

A recently released report, Financial Innovations to Accelerate Sustainable Agriculture: Blueprints for the Value Chain, provides companies throughout the food and agriculture sector with 12 tangible innovative finance mechanisms and value-added incentive strategies to support U.S. farmers in scaling conservation practices and delivering sustainable outcomes. The blueprints encompass innovations for transition risk sharing, pay for performance, leasing incentives and more.

Here are three key insights for those looking to take action. Read More »

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Breakthrough agricultural loan rewards farmers for environmental stewardship

Quantifying the long-term financial benefits of conservation practices that build farm resilience and recognizing that value in the financing offered to farmers would be transformative for farms, lenders and the environment.

That idea received a major boost when Farmers Business Network, a global farmer-to-farmer network and ag tech company, launched a new farm operating loan that includes a lower interest rate incentive for farmers who achieve climate and water quality benchmarks.

Read More »

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New program sheds light on cover crop financials with big data

This post was co-authored by Katherine Wilts Johnson, extension economist at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Farm Financial Management.

Farmers’ interest in cover crops is growing rapidly along with increased focus on soil health. But one of the most important questions farmers continue to ask is how cover crops will impact their finances.

A new program launched by Environmental Defense Fund and the University of Minnesota’s Center for Farm Financial Management (CFFM) aims to answer the economic questions farmers have about cover crops by developing a new farm financial benchmarking program within the FINBIN database — the largest publicly available farm financial database in the country.

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Banks take major step to turn climate commitments into action for global agriculture sector

Today at COP26, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development announced the Banking for Impact on Climate in Agriculture (B4ICA) initiative in partnership with EDF, the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative and the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials.

Banks representing over 40% of global banking assets have already committed to aligning their portfolios with net zero emissions by 2050.

A major theme of this COP — the international climate change conference — is the urgent need to transition from commitments to action.

Action is needed to protect the agriculture sector from climate change, as farmers around the world are exposed to increasingly volatile weather that threatens global food security and rural livelihoods. At the same time, the sector must reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions, particularly potent methane and nitrous oxide emissions.

Fortunately, farms have the potential to reduce emissions, sequester carbon and build resilience — but farmers need support to make change at the scale and pace required to avoid major losses. Read More »

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Global leaders can’t fulfill their methane promises without agriculture

Methane pollution from energy, agriculture and other industries has emerged as a key focal point at COP26 as more than 100 countries, representing two-thirds of the global economy, pledged to cut methane emissions 30% by 2030.

This is a huge step.

Methane is one of the most potent GHGs that is expected to cause half of the projected temperature rise over the next two decades. By reducing emissions of methane — which has more than 80 times the near-term warming power of carbon dioxide — we can hit the brakes on the increasingly rapid warming responsible for stronger storms and hotter fire seasons. Read More »

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How a diversity of crops, geographies and farms makes North Carolina’s agriculture sector uniquely resilient

Climate change and extreme weather pose serious threats to North Carolina agriculture as both temperatures and precipitation totals are expected to rise. However, North Carolina’s diverse agricultural production system provides a strong foundation for building climate resilience.

Environmental Defense Fund partnered with Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University to study the financial impacts of climate resilience on farms in North Carolina.

As an NC A&T student and EDF summer intern, I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Mark Blevins, assistant administrator for agriculture and natural resources with the Cooperative Extension, about the current state and future of North Carolina agriculture.

Read More »

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