Commodities trading firm Cargill is launching a programme that will pay American farmers to engage in practices that cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve soil health.
Cargill has introduced RegenConnect to advance regenerative agriculture practices across 10 million acres of land in North America by 2030, also recognising that it will open new revenue streams for farmers by paying them per tonne of carbon sequestered.
The initiative connects farmers to the growing carbon market, and will help scale the adoption of voluntary regenerative agriculture practices, the company said in a press release.
“Agriculture has a unique opportunity to utilise voluntary carbon markets and regenerative ag to address the global climate challenge and better the economic prospects for farmers,” added Ben Fargher, vice president of sustainability in Cargill’s North American agricultural supply chain.
“Changes made at the roots of our supply chains will deliver the greatest impact in reducing emissions, delivering higher yields, improving water quality, sequestering carbon and building the resilience of our soils for the next generation.”
Under the programme, Cargill will pay participants $20 for every tonne of CO2e that’s trapped by their land.
The company said the initiative will also help consumers of Cargill’s packaged goods to meet their own sustainability goals.
Farmers enrolled in RegenConnect will implement the eligible regenerative agriculture practices of their choosing, including cover crops and reduced- or no-till farming, beginning this fall into the next planting season.
Cover crops are planted to protect the soil and reduce erosion rather than for harvesting purposes, while no-till farming is a technique where the soil remains undisturbed.
Cargill said it has partnered with carbon measurement firm Regrow to facilitate MRV using in-field data, remote sensing, and crop and soil health modelling.
“Growers have told us they are looking for sustainability programmes that offer simplicity, transparency and flexibility to suit their specific operation,” said Fargher.
In a study of 100 farmers across nine states conducted by The Soil Health Institute and supported by Cargill, researchers found that soil health management systems increased incomes for 85% of farmers growing corn and 88% of farmers growing soybeans.
The average income for corn growers increased by $52 per acre and $45 per acre for soybeans. Additionally, farmers reported reduced average costs to grow corn by $24 per acre and soybeans by $17 per acre.
Cargill joins other firms – including Indigo – in paying farmers to sequester carbon while earning offsets in the process.
However, the company said its wider supply chain reach gives it an advantage compared to others.
Scientists say the agriculture sector makes up around a tenth of total US emissions, meaning farmers could collectively play a significant role in the battle against climate change.
However, critics have questioned the permanence of the sequestration process, while also pointing to larger GHG sources from the food industry, including livestock and transportation emissions.
Cargill said it has been signing up farmers for RegenConnect for several months and expects to pay participants 50% of their projected annual earnings this December, with the remainder to come next year.
By Mike Szabo – firstname.lastname@example.org