By David Perry
The agriculture industry is currently one of the biggest contributors to human caused greenhouse gas emissions, but I believe that it is also one of the most hopeful solutions for slowing and reversing climate change.
Agricultural crops have the potential to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester it in the soil, and the sheer size of the ag industry makes this approach one of the only cost-effective methods of removing atmospheric CO2 at scale. As remarkable as it sounds, if implemented worldwide regenerative growing practices have the potential to absorb all of the carbon that humans have put into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution! These practices are being used today by a small percentage of growers and other growers are already interested in integrating these practices. What’s missing are a set of incentives that will allow farmers to adopt these practices broadly, while maintaining or improving farm profitability. An industry that is responsible for anywhere from 25 to 30 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions today – second only to the oil and gas industry – has the chance to not only offset our own emissions but hit the reset button across every other industry.
Planting cover crops, crop rotations, using no-till farming, and reducing inputs are some of the regenerative practices that can support carbon sequestration, soil biodiversity, and healthy end-products for consumers. Together these practices can help restore cultivated soils, increasing their carbon content from today’s 0.5 to 1 percent to the 3 to 7 percent that we see in forests and prairies. Growers are already integrating these innovative practices and seeing clear results. But in order to scale grower adoption, incentives must be put in place.
I can think of three potential methods for accomplishing this: government incentives, consumer purchasing of carbon credits, and consumers or consumer-facing brands prioritizing sustainably-produced goods. This week’s announcement of a partnership between Anheuser-Busch and Indigo to bring sustainably grown rice to beer sold worldwide is an excellent example of that last method. The supply agreement brings over two million bushels of sustainably produced rice to the country’s leading brewer, enabling growers to engage in regenerative practices that interest them while increasing profitability. In the end, these growers are able to support the health of both consumers and the environment.
Through this program, growers working with Indigo will reduce water use, nitrogen use, and greenhouse gas emissions. But this won’t come at the expense of the farmer’s bottom line: with our cutting-edge microbial tools, agronomic support, and digital innovations, combined with the market premium enabled by Anheuser-Busch, growers working with Indigo can expect to earn an additional $30 to $60 per acre. Our agronomists will support data-based decision-making throughout the season to optimize the implementation of regenerative practices for soil health, water conservation, and improved farm margins. For the first time, rice growers in the US have been offered an integrated, systems approach to meet sustainability goals, while earning more in the process.
Indigo’s solutions work together to advance grower profitability, environmental sustainability, and consumer health – our three key pillars. Combined, they offer an alternative to the commodity market, enabling farmers to act as the price makers of their harvests, practice their profession the way they choose, and deliver to consumers the products in demand. In the process, the planet’s resources can be preserved and even made better for future generations. Where agriculture had once been a contributor to climate change, it can now be the most promising solution.