Growing Returns

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.

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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.

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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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