Input Stories

Input Stories

Manufacturers Promote Regenerative Farming for Sustainability

Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on a particular area of sustainability: helping agriculture become more climate-friendly, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription). 

What’s going on: “Some governments and a handful of major corporations are making inroads in turning farming toward more earth-healthy practices” called regenerative farming methods, which “could capture significant carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as well as improve soil health, biodiversity, resilience and farm economics.”

  • This approach to farming varies from case to case and “include[s] growing cover crops, reducing tillage, crop rotation and agroforestry.”

Why it’s important: In one study, climate-smart agriculture—for which the Inflation Reduction Act earmarked $19.5 billion—increased farmers’ long-term income up to 120% after an initial three- to five-year start-up period.

  • Soil can capture between 100 and 120 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, experts say.

Already working: In 2022, beverage producer Diageo started a Guinness regenerative agriculture pilot program in Ireland and recruited 44 farmers to it.

  • Third-generation farmer Walter Furlong, who is part of the program, has already noticed a difference. “We’re measuring more on the farm in terms of emissions . . . [and] finding that from four or five simple changes, we’re able to make some big impact in terms of reducing carbon.”

Making the case to farmers: In 2020, the Sustainable Markets Initiative—a private-sector group that includes senior leaders from manufacturers such as PepsiCo and Mondelez International—set up a task force to speed regenerative agriculture adoption among farmers.

  • The chief adoption hurdle, a report from the initiative found two years later, “was that farmers’ short-term economics don’t add up” and there was “a knowledge gap.”
  • Financial incentives, derisking mechanisms and technical and peer support help overcome this hurdle, the group found.

Shifting perceptions: Farmers have told PepsiCo, which runs demonstration farm programs using regenerative agricultural practices, that optics plays a big role in whether regenerative agriculture is used. 

  • One technique involves leaving crop residues on the soil—a practice that can look “dirty,” one Iowa farmer told PepsiCo Chief Sustainability Officer Jim Andrew.
  • “Shifting that culture takes time. PepsiCo’s demonstration farm programs often include field days to bring farmers together in the hope that if they see the benefits of regenerative agriculture on land similar to theirs it can help overcome barriers to adoption.”
  • Agricultural commodities company Cargill also uses field days as a way of letting farmers see where peers are having success. Another major factor in changing perceptions among farmers, according to the firm, has been the involvement of large farming institutions, such as the American Farm Bureau Federation.
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