Growing Returns

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.

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How Congress can ensure voluntary carbon markets work for farmers and the environment

Voluntary agricultural carbon markets, although currently in their infancy, have the potential to increase adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices by generating new revenue streams for producers who cut emissions or sequester carbon, while also increasing climate resilience.

Voluntary carbon markets, however, currently involve multiple carbon registries and protocols for different types of emissions reduction and carbon removal practices, with variable measurement and accounting approaches. This variation means that farmers, other credit developers and purchasers risk investing in poorly quantified and potentially reversible climate benefits.

Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture must act now to help ensure voluntary agricultural carbon markets work for farmers and the environment. Today, I testified before the House Agriculture Committee about three ways that they can best do this. Read More »

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What agricultural lenders need to know about emerging carbon market opportunities

Carbon markets have captured the attention of the agriculture sector, and agricultural lenders are no exception. I recently heard from a lender that their number one question from their farmer borrowers is about carbon credit opportunities.

As trusted advisors to farmers, here’s what lenders need to know to navigate these conversations. Read More »

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Quick action needed to achieve full mitigation potential of soil carbon credits

The potential for agricultural climate solutions has led to surging interest in credits for soil carbon sequestration. The stakes for climate change and farmers are high, and there is a pressing need to evaluate emerging protocols for measuring, reporting and verifying soil carbon sequestration and net greenhouse gas removals.

With that in mind, Environmental Defense Fund and the Woodwell Climate Research Center reviewed 12 published protocols for soil carbon credits from cropland and rangeland, and published the results in a new report — Agricultural Soil Carbon Credits: Making sense of protocols for carbon sequestration and net greenhouse gas removals.

Here are the challenges the report found with current soil carbon credits and recommendations for overcoming them to build confidence in soil carbon markets. Read More »

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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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