How carbon-smart farming is catalyzing the big bucks needed to transform the way America eats

December 21, 2020 by  
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How carbon-smart farming is catalyzing the big bucks needed to transform the way America eats C.J. Clouse Mon, 12/21/2020 – 02:00 The contraption Matt Sheffer wants to show me sits at the far end of a field of alfalfa and grasses, a weave of green and pale gold, broken only by the parallel grooves we’re trudging along, a path carved by the tires of a pickup truck. It’s Nov. 4, and America is in the midst of a presidential election that feels like being trapped, upside down and spinning, on a ramshackle carnival ride. So I’m grateful for this opportunity to escape, to walk on sturdy ground and see all the way to where the earth touches the sky.  I’ve come to Stone House Farm from Brooklyn to learn more about how regenerative agriculture — the nature-based approach to farming generating all kinds of buzz around its climate mitigation potential — actually works. Standing alone in the open field, the solar-powered equipment Sheffer shows me could be mistaken for some sort of high-tech scarecrow, but it has a far different job: to monitor and measure the CO 2 in the soil at this farming operation and research center in New York’s Hudson Valley.  Many scientists and other experts agree that regenerative practices — growing diverse crops rather than monocultures; planting cover crops (such as the alfalfa and grasses) on resting fields instead of leaving them bare; minimizing mechanical tillage of the soil; and incorporating livestock into the crop rotation — lead to environmental and health benefits. The soil becomes richer and healthier, runoff that pollutes water is reduced, biodiversity and habitat for the birds, bees and other wildlife increases, farm animals live better, and the food produced is more nutritious. Early research also indicates farmers using these techniques can reap long-term financial gains .  Still, it’s regenerative agriculture’s potential as a carbon sink that’s driving millions of corporate and investor dollars into soil-climate initiatives, large and modest. And while there’s plenty of room for skepticism when Big Ag gets into the sustainability business, this trend represents something of a game-changer, a level of investment in sustainable farming that never has happened before.  In fact, the current system of agriculture finance in the United States has, for decades, worked against any large-scale transition away from the industrial farming complex it was built to support. Scientists may not agree on exactly how much CO 2 agricultural soil can sequester — in fact, they spend a fair amount of time blog fighting about it. But in a way, it doesn’t matter. Given that American agriculture needs to change, for a whole slew of reasons including its contribution to the heating of the planet , if the hype around soil carbon helps to fuel that transformation, that in itself is a good thing.  Making it rain for America’s farmers Sheffer and his partner Ben Dobson are among those who believe aligning farmers’ economic interests with positive environmental outcomes is the way to remake the farming landscape. This month, they’ll launch Hudson Carbon , an agriculture-focused carbon marketplace they envision as a “farmers market” for carbon credits, where mission-driven brands and individual consumers can connect with a particular farm and buy offsets to support its regenerative transition.  They’re also asking Hudson Carbon customers to pay more, significantly more than the current global price of roughly $20 per ton, which they say doesn’t necessarily motivate farmers. (That price is also far below the low-ball estimate of $50 per ton for the true social cost of carbon pollution.)  “The current carbon price is self-serving for those who are required to offset, like power plants and other polluters, but it doesn’t motivate behavior change on the other side of the equation,” Sheffer tells me. “To catalyze any major shift to regenerative agriculture, there needs to be better financial mechanisms and a higher price per ton of CO 2 .” How high? Hudson Carbon wants its customers to pay $100.  Matt Sheffer is managing director of  Hudson Carbon , an agriculture-focused carbon marketplace they envision as a “farmers market” for carbon credits. Photo courtesy of C.J. Clouse The marketplace is one of a number of new platforms born in anticipation of huge corporate demand for soil carbon credits. In January, Seattle startup Nori raised $1.3 million to fund its marketplace, which uses blockchain technology to pay farmers for carbon sequestration. Boston-based Indigo Agriculture , a similar startup, announced in June a $300 million kitty from its investors, making it the world’s highest-valued agtech firm at an estimated $3.5 billion. The new Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC), set to launch in 2022, promises to be the largest. It will offer both carbon and water credits, and planning has begun for biodiversity credits as well, executive director Debbie Reed told me when we spoke by phone in October. ESMC, in fact, will comprise two markets: one where a broad range of companies — from Silicon Valley to Wall Street — can buy offsets to meet science-based emissions reduction targets; and one for “members,” companies with agriculture in their supply chains — including food and beverage, fashion, and beauty and cosmetics brands — that will make results-based payments to their suppliers. Some refer to this practice as “insetting.”  The beauty of insetting is that a company enables its suppliers’ transition from conventional to regenerative practices by providing educational, technical and, in some cases, financial assistance. One $8.5 million ESMC-linked pilot , sponsored by McDonald’s, Cargill , Target and The Nature Conservancy, aims to convert 100,000 acres of land in Nebraska, by providing beef producers technical assistance and an upfront 75 percent cost share. Meanwhile, Nestlé, which is working with 500,000 farmers to support the implementation of regenerative agriculture practices, just announced it would invest $1.3 billion in that effort over the next five years, funds that will go toward sharing the cost of capital improvements and the premium price the company will pay for regeneratively grown goods.  Farmers who want to earn money selling credits — offsets or insets — on these new markets opt into data monitoring and measurement, because payments are based on outcomes such as increases in soil carbon or improved water quality. The Nebraska program is one of a number of pilots underway to test ESMC’s protocols for quantifying and verifying credits. These pilots are also working out potential cost and pricing models, Reed said. The current carbon price is self-serving for those who are required to offset, like power plants and other polluters, but it doesn’t motivate behavior change on the other side of the equation. “These major corporations are putting a lot of money into this, and if we can work with them … we can scale impact,” said Reed, who believes having standardized, transparent protocols will help hold companies accountable. “If we don’t work with these companies, and they do it themselves, then we have a patchwork, and it’s really hard to tell [who’s actually successful and who’s not].” While multinational corporations making big announcements get most of the attention, regenerative agriculture is a movement led by farmers and mission-driven entrepreneurs and brands, which have been researching and innovating for years. Of the 670 companies that work with The Climate Collaborative , nearly 300 have made regenerative ag commitments, director Erin Callahan told me. Most of these are privately owned small to midsize companies in the natural products industry. When we spoke in October, Callahan shared that she’d recently sent an email blast asking for progress reports on regenerative ag initiatives. “I thought I’d get five responses,” she said. “And I got 130 in 36 hours.”  One example comes from Happy Family Organics , which learned from two training pilots it sponsored, in 2018 and 2019, that farmers really need financial assistance and ongoing access to mentoring to make the transition to regenerative practices work. This year, the company established a Regenerative Farmer Fund, setting aside $40,000 per year to support up to four farmers annually with new practice implementation. You grow tom?toes, I grow tom?toes  It’s difficult to overstate how crucial both training and financial help are to farmers, because transitioning to regenerative or organic practices is complicated, expensive and risky. It takes time and knowledge. Stone House Farm, which sits on more than 2,000 acres in Columbia County, New York, used to grow corn and soybeans conventionally. A grain farm of this size can expect to run in the red for the first two years of an organic transition, accumulating a deficit of more than $400,000 before turning a profit in year three, according to analysis by the USDA.  The fact that the Peggy McGrath Rockefeller Foundation owns Stone House made its transition possible. An activist in the cause of preserving farmland, McGrath Rockefeller engineered the purchases of various dairy operations that created the farm. When her children Abby, David and Peggy took over, they wanted to rid the farm of toxic chemicals and establish a viable business. The foundation hired Ben Dobson to implement the transition in 2013. Along with his work on Hudson Carbon, Dobson manages Stone House Grain , a certified organic, non-GMO producer that grows barley, corn, soybeans and wheat. The grain company rents the land and facilities from the foundation, which intends for the farm to serve as a model for the region. Dobson’s parents ran one of the area’s first organic farms back in the 1980s. His interest in soil carbon grew from an early fascination with managing large landscapes naturally and in a closed loop cycle. “I wanted to farm like my parents, but they were very small-scale,” he says. “All these organic farms are so small, and that’s good, it’s a great lifestyle. But how do we change this huge land base in America that’s just plastered in chemicals?” To see what he means, look at the stats. Over the past decade, organic food sales in the United States doubled to more than $50 billion in 2019, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2020 Organic Industry Survey . The number of individual organic farms has surged as well — climbing by more than 50 percent from 10,903 farms in 2007 to 16,585 farms in 2017 — according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest data , released in October. And yet, there are still only 5.5 million certified organic acres, up from just over 4 million acres over the same time period, a swath of land that represents less than 1 percent of the 911 million acres of total farmland nationwide.  Ben Dobson, founder of Hudson Carbon, also manages  Stone House Grain , a certified organic, non-GMO producer that grows barley, corn, soybeans and wheat. Photo courtesy of C.J. Clouse Granted, this data does not include regenerative farms not certified as organic. The two farming systems are similar but not exactly the same. Some organic farmers till the soil to control weeds, while no-till farmers sometimes use herbicides. Still, both systems aim to farm more sustainably, and many farmers use methods from both. Often, no-till farmers want to eventually eliminate chemical inputs, while organic farmers are trying to reduce tillage by incorporating certain cover crops, which help control weeds, into their rotation. Some of this is being done out of need, as farmers look for ways to deal with “superweeds” that have become resistant to herbicides.  Dave Miller, founder and CEO of Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT , understands well the disconnect between consumer demand for clean, healthy food and available financing.  For nearly 15 years, the Illinois-based specialty finance company has provided leases and mortgages to organic farmers. One of only a handful of companies with a history of specializing in sustainable farming finance — others include Farmland LP and Dirt Capital Partners — Iroquois Valley has invested in more than 60 organic farms comprising nearly 13,000 acres all over the country. Over time, it became evident that limited access to capital was holding back farmers’ growth, Miller told me. So last year, Iroquois Valley began offering operating lines of credit as well.  “All of our farmers want more land,” Miller said when we spoke by phone in April, as he hunkered down on his farm in Iroquois County, about an hour and a half south of Chicago, during the first wave of COVID-19. “We saw operating credit as the biggest barrier to growth in sustainable agriculture. It’s great to have a market for your product, but if you can’t get funds to operate and to grow, then you’re SOL.” Frustration with traditional agriculture finance has led others to step up as well. It motivated the 2019 launch of Steward , a crowdfunding platform for sustainable farming that has raised more than $2.6 million for roughly 20 farms, and this year’s launch of rePlant Capital , a new farmer-first financial company that aims to deploy $250 million to producers converting to regenerative or organic practices. RePlant has partnered with Danone North America (another ESMC member), committing to invest as much as $20 million over the next few years to help Danone’s suppliers transition.  How Goliath won the battle for America’s farmland  America’s industrial agriculture system dates back to just after World War II, when federal farming policy began to focus on quantity. The shift to synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, along with advances in mechanization, created the type of efficiency and scale the U.S. government hoped for. In a way, some farmers benefited as well, with increased production and easy pest control. But farming families also paid a big price, as the number of farms in the U.S. dropped by half from 1950 to 1970, and the detrimental environmental and health impacts of these chemicals played out. Still, the mantra “get big or get out” stuck — Sonny Perdue, Donald Trump’s agriculture secretary, repeated it just last year . And this policy shaped the country’s system of agricultural funding. Federal subsidies that keep commodity prices low and the federal crop insurance program promote monocultures by making it difficult for farmers to plant a variety of crops at once or to include cover crops in their rotation. Many farmers have taken on huge debts to purchase conventional farming equipment or land, which essentially locks them into the status quo. Meanwhile, banks and other financiers often have denied loans to small operations or organic/regenerative farmers they view “too niche” in their practices.  We saw operating credit as the biggest barrier to growth in sustainable agriculture. “Federal farm programs make it more attractive to stay in the system you’re in,” Lisa French, a Kansas farmer, told me during a phone call in October. In terms of federal crop insurance, “you almost didn’t want to tell them you were planting cover crops because it might make you ineligible for payments. …. Or the banker may not want to loan money for cover crop seed because he doesn’t understand why you want that extra expense, when in fact you may be reducing other expenses in the process.” French and her husband grow wheat, sorghum and soybeans, and raise 40 head of cattle on roughly 800 acres near the Lake Cheney Watershed in the south-central part of the state. She’s also served as project director for the watershed for 20 years, because like many small producers, the Frenches don’t earn enough from the farm alone to make ends meet. Intrigued by farming in a way that enriches soil and what that meant for nutrient density in their livestock and crops, the Frenches have used certain regenerative practices for years, but they wanted to learn and do more. So they, along with 23 other growers in the area, enrolled in a ESMC-linked wheat pilot program sponsored by General Mills, one of three regenerative agriculture pilots the company has rolled out in the last year.  A new regenerative normal  To help its suppliers transition, General Mills contracted the consulting company Understanding Ag to provide training and coaching to the participants. They also assigned local regenerative farmers to act as mentors and help build a community. “The opportunity to learn from each other and to see what other people are trying is invaluable,” French said. And having a program focused on one geographic area “tends to bring along other farmers who are not participating because they see many of their neighbors making changes on their farms. The program makes it more likely that farmers will be successful in their transition, and it makes it more likely that regenerative ag is the norm in the neighborhood.” Ray Archuleta, founder of Understanding Ag, has dedicated his life to teaching farmers about soil health. A conservation agronomist, he spent 32 years working for USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) before retiring four years ago. Now he does the same job as a consultant.  “You know how I draw people into my classes? I draw them in economically, and later they start to fall in love with the ecology,” Archuleta told me when I caught up with him by phone in October. “The ecology was always first, then the economics followed, but we switched it around. And they begin to understand.” There is a long-term economic argument for regenerative ag from the farmer’s perspective, if they can just get over the transitional hump. First and foremost, it reduces and even can eliminate the costs associated with conventional farming, the money spent on chemical herbicides and fertilizer. And even though there isn’t a legal or regulatory definition of “regenerative agriculture” yet, consumers already seem willing to pay more for “pasture-raised” and “grass-fed” meat, eggs and dairy products, for example, much as they do for certified organic produce.  Some early research also indicates that regenerative farmers can maintain or even improve yields in the long run, because the soil is healthier and can better withstand the severe weather disturbances happening more often due to climate change.  “If you have drought conditions or heavy rain, land farmed regeneratively is more resilient, because with better management the soil is usable again more quickly,” Keith Paustian, a professor in soil and crop sciences at Colorado State University, explained. “If you have heavy rain, there is typically more water holding capacity which reduces flooding. And if you have a dry year, because regenerative farm soil holds moisture longer, it’s less dry than soil farmed conventionally.” Cattle grazing on the French farm in Kansas. Photo courtesy of Lisa French Flipping the script to reward positive outcomes When it comes to soil’s potential to sequester carbon, however, any scientific consensus ends. Some declare soil carbon the planet’s savior and others basically call BS on such assertions. As is often the case, the truth likely lies somewhere in between the extremes. “People who say this is a panacea, those numbers are wrong,” Paustian told me. “But in my opinion, and I think the data bears it out, there’s a definite role for soil carbon sequestration as part of the solution [to the climate crisis].” Some people I spoke to seem exasperated by the whole debate.  “I think there has been a bit too much argument about what the exact potential is,” said Jay Watson, sustainability engagement manager at General Mills. “Can we just agree that there is potential, and it’s the right thing to do? I think the General Mills approach has been: We’re committed to learning, but let’s just get started. … The clock is ticking.” Essentially, it comes down to a chicken-and-egg question. Some believe paying for carbon sequestration will motivate a regenerative transition that will bring a whole slew of environmental and social benefits. Others favor cost sharing and alternative financial incentives — payment for water quality and biodiversity, for example — to motivate the transition, which in turn will reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and lead to some amount of carbon sequestration.  In the end, the goals are the same, and meeting those goals requires a realignment of America’s agriculture finance system to one that rewards positive environmental outcomes and discourages destructive practices. Right now, it does the opposite, by not considering the true costs, the unsustainability of the current system or the benefits of a regenerative transformation.  In 2018, Farmland LP, Delta Institute and Earth Economics released a report , funded by the USDA, that found $21.4 million in net ecosystem service benefits using regenerative practices on roughly 6,000 acres over five years. Yet, the system continues to incentivize farmers to plant the same monoculture crops year after year, sapping the soil of minerals and organic matter. To boost production of weak soil, they add more chemical fertilizers, which run off into the water supply and eventually to the ocean, causing dead zones, such as the Massachusetts-sized one in the Gulf of Mexico . At the same time, the U.S. loses top soil at a rate 10 times faster than it’s replenished. And carbon seeps from the plowed, exposed soil into the air, contributing to the emissions rapidly warming the planet. What’s more, it costs U.S. taxpayers a bundle to bail farmers out when they get hit by floods or droughts, or sharp drops in commodity prices. Farmers affected by severe weather and Trump’s trade war with China received more than $22 billion in government payments in 2019, the highest level of farm subsidies in 14 years. By comparison, government programs that encourage regenerative and organic growing practices, such as the NRCS’s Environmental Quality and Incentives Program and Conservation Steward Program, historically have been funded at a fraction of conventional subsidies.  Such policies have been entrenched for decades, and changing them will not be easy.  “Here’s the problem: We have lobbyists … chemical company lobbyists, the fertilizer company lobbyists … they push the senators, and the senators push the heads of the agencies,” Archuleta said. “Nobody wants to touch the subsidies, no stinking way. The Democrats and the Republicans do not have the guts to terminate them.” Unfortunately, we hear from a lot of farmers that they’re getting into the soil health regenerative ag space because they feel like they don’t have any other choice, just from a profitability standpoint. After more than 30 years working for the government, it’s easy to understand Archuleta’s skepticism. However, there are positive signs. New bipartisan legislation that would provide incentives to adopt regenerative techniques has been introduced in the Senate, and President-elect Joe Biden recently reiterated his support for climate-smart farming, saying he would pay farmers “to put their land in conservation and plant cover crops.” The think tank Data for Progress also has proposed overhauling the federal crop insurance program to limit the total acreage eligible for coverage, phase out incentives for single-crop planting and create new tax credits designed specifically for family-owned farms.  If they wanted to, large, powerful corporations that have set science-based emissions reduction targets could push politicians toward a regenerative agriculture transition, although it’s still unclear whether that will happen. In the end, the real push could come from the farmers themselves, as they find themselves struggling year after year to produce sufficient yields on conventionally farmed land.  “Unfortunately, we hear from a lot of farmers that they’re getting into the soil health regenerative ag space because they feel like they don’t have any other choice, just from a profitability standpoint,” General Mills’ Watson told me. “The current way they’re farming just isn’t working anymore. They’re having to apply a lot more input to protect yield, and at some point, that becomes unsustainable.”  Grassroots grass-fed solutions  Like Archuleta, Dobson doubts real change will come from the top. When we sit down Nov. 4 in the sparse office he uses to manage farm business at Stone House, I ask him how he feels about the presidential election, which won’t be called for three more days.  “I don’t think we can look up for a leader,” he tells me. “The solutions are going to come from people. It would be easier with a Biden presidency to make progress, but I still think it has to come from people seeing a problem and believing we have to do something about it.”  Dobson and Sheffer have been measuring soil carbon at Stone House for five years, and the trends in the data at various sites show the farm is gaining soil carbon at various levels, sequestering CO 2 at a rate of about 7 tons per acre per year. Meanwhile, the trend in the data from the conventional farm up the road, which they’ve been measuring since 2018, shows it is losing soil carbon. This month, Stone House will begin selling credits on the Hudson Carbon marketplace as its first project. The farm and the PMR Foundation plan to divide proceeds from these sales, with the farm’s portion going to overhead, while the foundation’s portion goes to infrastructure improvements and other costs related to its regenerative agriculture mission. The platform aims to add more local farms next year and eventually to go global and include forest carbon credits.  But will companies and consumers be willing to fork over $100 per ton?  At least one company is. Hudson Carbon’s first customer, Light Phone , a New York-based technology startup that makes an “anti-smartphone,” has agreed to offset its footprint by purchasing credits on the platform. Time will tell whether others follow, or whether we succeed at transforming American agriculture before the planet completely falls apart.  I’ve not felt optimistic about our willingness to undertake transformational change and save ourselves in a long time, but something about regenerative agriculture does leave you with a sense of hope — a sense that if we can, one way or another, just get farmers through the transitional phase, replacing our industrial agriculture complex with something better is actually — doable. Pull Quote The current carbon price is self-serving for those who are required to offset, like power plants and other polluters, but it doesn’t motivate behavior change on the other side of the equation. We saw operating credit as the biggest barrier to growth in sustainable agriculture. Unfortunately, we hear from a lot of farmers that they’re getting into the soil health regenerative ag space because they feel like they don’t have any other choice, just from a profitability standpoint. Topics Food & Agriculture Carbon Removal GreenFin Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The Stone House Farm in New York is home to a new carbon marketplace tied to regenerative agriculture. Photo courtesy of C.J. Clouse Courtesy of C.J. Clouse Close Authorship

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How carbon-smart farming is catalyzing the big bucks needed to transform the way America eats

How to properly freeze fresh produce

August 4, 2020 by  
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If you’ve ever wished you could have a taste of your summer garden in the dead of winter, bought a little too much at the farmers market because it was all so beautiful or took advantage of that amazing bargain at the grocery store and ended up with more fruit than you can eat, you need to know how to properly freeze fresh produce so you can enjoy it later. Plus, preserving these items is a great way to reduce food waste . Many fruits and veggies can be frozen and stored so they retain their crisp, fresh taste for many months. That means you can keep on enjoying all your garden favorites all through the year. Before you freeze Before you freeze any produce, thoroughly wash it and examine it for any spoiled areas. You should only freeze ripe, unspoiled, clean produce . If you have large pieces of produce, such as whole ears of corn, you can chop them up into more manageable pieces before you begin the freezing process. Remember, everything you want to freeze has to fit inside storage containers that can fit inside your freezer. Related: 8 tips to keep your summer fruits and vegetables fresher for longer For most produce, you’ll also want to remove extras like husks and stems . Peppers need to have the seeds removed before you freeze them. Once everything is cleaned and the extras are removed, you can begin the process of properly freezing produce. Prepare your veggies To lock in the fresh flavor and crispness of vegetables , you have to pre-treat them before they’re ready to be frozen. First, blanch your veggies. That means you need to briefly dip them in boiling water and then immediately place them in ice water. This preserves the fresh taste and actually helps them freeze more effectively. The vegetables must be completely dry before you freeze them. Spread the blanched, dried vegetables out evenly on a sheet pan, and allow it all to freeze completely like this before you place vegetables in a storage container. Otherwise, everything will end up frozen together. Fill a storage container completely, packing it as tightly as you can. Air is the enemy of all frozen food, so do your best not to leave any extra space. Use freezer bags (check out reusable silicone options) or airtight containers. If the container is airtight, your vegetables will stay edible and maintain their flavor for about 18 months. Write the freeze date on your storage container or freezer bag so you know when you placed your vegetables in the freezer. Freezing fruits It can be a little tricky to freeze fruits, which naturally turn brown over time. To prevent your frozen fruits from browning, steam them first for about two minutes. You can also sprinkle a little ascorbic acid and water over fruits prior to freezing. All fruits should be spread out on a baking sheet and frozen before being placed in storage containers. Berries can be frozen whole in most cases. Larger fruits, such as peaches, should be cut into slices before they’re frozen. You should also remove unnecessary parts of the fruits, such as the stems on strawberries and the pits in cherries. Choose wisely No matter how careful your process is, there are simply some fruits and vegetables that freeze better than others. Corn and peas both freeze beautifully and last for a long time when they’re frozen properly. Onions and peppers also freeze incredibly well, whether they’re chopped or whole. But there is some produce that simply doesn’t freeze well. No matter how careful you are, these veggies will end up mushy and lose their flavor. Celery, endive, lettuce , cabbage, watercress, cucumbers and radishes naturally have a very high water content already. When these items are frozen and dethawed, you’ll end up with a slushy mess. Citrus fruits of all kinds also don’t freeze well. They can be frozen, but they only remain edible for about three months. Other produce can be frozen and eaten for up to 18 months, so this is a huge difference. Still, this can buy you a bit more time to use up these fruits instead of letting them go to waste. Bananas are the easiest of all fruits to freeze and store, because you can simply throw them as they are in the freezer. The peels will turn brown. But inside that frozen peel, the banana will stay fresh and tasty. Freezing fresh produce Once you know how to freeze fresh produce to preserve the taste for months into the future, you can get as much as you want from the farmers market, expand your summer garden and take advantage of that amazing berry sale at the grocery store whenever you want. Take the time to freeze your produce properly, and you’ll get to enjoy the taste of freshness time and time again, all while minimizing food waste. Images via Naturfreund_pics , LeoNeoBoy and Sosinda

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How to properly freeze fresh produce

Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production

June 10, 2020 by  
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Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production Dean Cycon Wed, 06/10/2020 – 01:00 When you sit back with a good cup of coffee, you will be engulfed in the warmth, aroma, taste, acidity and body of the brew. Yet, swirling beneath the surface all of the major issues of the 21st century — climate change, globalization, immigration, women’s rights and wealth inequity — are being played out in remote coffee villages around the world.  How companies behave in the coffee trade has a direct impact not only on the lives and livelihoods of 28 million coffee farming families but on the welfare of the planet itself. Coffee companies claiming to be “ethical” or “sustainable” that refuse to pay a living wage to the farmers are fueling this longstanding human and environmental crisis.  Changes in rainfall patterns and temperature weaken coffee plants and reduce yields. Climate-enhanced fungi and bacteria decimate coffee plants, leaving families with little or no income for the next five years until new trees can be planted and mature. Larger farm owners must deforest land and plant more coffee to make up for the historically low prices they are receiving from the market. This deforestation inhibits carbon sequestration, which leads to higher temperatures. The cycle is self-fulfilling.  As a result, coffee production will be greatly limited in medium and lower elevations by 2030 to 2050. When production is reduced, farmers may use more chemicals in the growing process, which harms the soil and water sources, further degrading the planet and human health. Coffee, poverty and migration are also connected. The largest single group of migrants trying to cross the southern border are from Guatemala, and most of them are from the coffee lands of Huehuetenango province. They are unemployed and landless coffee farming families hoping for a better life.  The price per pound paid to coffee farmers is based on the “New York C price,” a commodity system that operates much like a stock market. For several years, the C price for coffee has hovered around the farmer’s cost of production ($0.80-$1.10), which means no profit for the farmers. From a high in 2014, prices paid to farmers have plummeted by 70 percent and now dance around $1 per pound. Every pound a farmer sells, and every cup we drink, pushes a farmer deeper into poverty and despair.  If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. Companies are not required to base their payments to farmers on the C price, and many of us do not. Organic and Bird Friendly certifications offer a price premium to the farmer. Fair Trade provides a “living wage floor” and many committed Fair Traders pay substantially higher prices. The few real Direct Traders offer real price premiums for limited amounts of high-quality coffee. Many companies hide behind labels, such as Rainforest Alliance or Utz Kapeh, or self-created programs such as “Ethical Sourcing,” which sound good but do not guarantee higher prices.  Ironically, coffee company profits may be the highest in history. Companies such as Smuckers and Starbucks continue to raise their prices while their main cost of goods (buying coffee beans) has dropped considerably. According to the United Nations, the ratio between what the farmer was paid and what the companies sold their coffee for was 1:3 during the 1970s. Today, it is as high as 1:20, as many consumers are paying $20 a pound.  In 2012, Starbucks reported its average price for green beans was $2.56 per pound . However, that is the price it paid to the broker, not to the farmer. After backing out shipping, insurance, importer and exporter and mill costs, that price would be closer to $2.20 paid per pound to the farmer. By 2014, Starbucks was only paying $1.72 to the broker (maybe $1.36 to the farmer). By paying the lower amount, Starbucks took $387 million out of the farmers’ pockets. As green prices keep falling, Starbucks has continued to pay coffee farmers less, while charging consumers more.  So, who is winning this game? Not the farmers, not the public and not the environment. Instead of paying enough to support the farmers, large and small coffee companies contribute lesser amounts to nonprofits for clean water, health and environmental projects under the banner of “corporate sustainability.” If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. If Starbucks returned to its 2012 broker and farmer prices, it nearly would double family income on most small farms. To family farms in Nicaragua, Peru, Ethiopia and Indonesia, that $1,400 could pay for healthcare, children’s education, proper nutrition and technology to produce higher yields and reduce their need to clear land. Even a 25-cent increase in the price paid to farmers, which would get Starbucks closer to the prices paid by truly committed coffee companies, would bring $150 million back to the farms and its stock price would not even blink. As an industry, we have lived long and well by treating farmers just like coffee. We see them as fungible commodities instead of true partners in the success of our businesses who are integral to effective adaptation to climate change and other issues of the day. The days of maximizing profits without seriously incorporating farmers’ concerns that bind us all together are over. It is time to pay up. Pull Quote If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. Topics Food & Agriculture Equity & Inclusion Environmental Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production

Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production

June 10, 2020 by  
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Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production Dean Cycon Wed, 06/10/2020 – 01:00 When you sit back with a good cup of coffee, you will be engulfed in the warmth, aroma, taste, acidity and body of the brew. Yet, swirling beneath the surface all of the major issues of the 21st century — climate change, globalization, immigration, women’s rights and wealth inequity — are being played out in remote coffee villages around the world.  How companies behave in the coffee trade has a direct impact not only on the lives and livelihoods of 28 million coffee farming families but on the welfare of the planet itself. Coffee companies claiming to be “ethical” or “sustainable” that refuse to pay a living wage to the farmers are fueling this longstanding human and environmental crisis.  Changes in rainfall patterns and temperature weaken coffee plants and reduce yields. Climate-enhanced fungi and bacteria decimate coffee plants, leaving families with little or no income for the next five years until new trees can be planted and mature. Larger farm owners must deforest land and plant more coffee to make up for the historically low prices they are receiving from the market. This deforestation inhibits carbon sequestration, which leads to higher temperatures. The cycle is self-fulfilling.  As a result, coffee production will be greatly limited in medium and lower elevations by 2030 to 2050. When production is reduced, farmers may use more chemicals in the growing process, which harms the soil and water sources, further degrading the planet and human health. Coffee, poverty and migration are also connected. The largest single group of migrants trying to cross the southern border are from Guatemala, and most of them are from the coffee lands of Huehuetenango province. They are unemployed and landless coffee farming families hoping for a better life.  The price per pound paid to coffee farmers is based on the “New York C price,” a commodity system that operates much like a stock market. For several years, the C price for coffee has hovered around the farmer’s cost of production ($0.80-$1.10), which means no profit for the farmers. From a high in 2014, prices paid to farmers have plummeted by 70 percent and now dance around $1 per pound. Every pound a farmer sells, and every cup we drink, pushes a farmer deeper into poverty and despair.  If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. Companies are not required to base their payments to farmers on the C price, and many of us do not. Organic and Bird Friendly certifications offer a price premium to the farmer. Fair Trade provides a “living wage floor” and many committed Fair Traders pay substantially higher prices. The few real Direct Traders offer real price premiums for limited amounts of high-quality coffee. Many companies hide behind labels, such as Rainforest Alliance or Utz Kapeh, or self-created programs such as “Ethical Sourcing,” which sound good but do not guarantee higher prices.  Ironically, coffee company profits may be the highest in history. Companies such as Smuckers and Starbucks continue to raise their prices while their main cost of goods (buying coffee beans) has dropped considerably. According to the United Nations, the ratio between what the farmer was paid and what the companies sold their coffee for was 1:3 during the 1970s. Today, it is as high as 1:20, as many consumers are paying $20 a pound.  In 2012, Starbucks reported its average price for green beans was $2.56 per pound . However, that is the price it paid to the broker, not to the farmer. After backing out shipping, insurance, importer and exporter and mill costs, that price would be closer to $2.20 paid per pound to the farmer. By 2014, Starbucks was only paying $1.72 to the broker (maybe $1.36 to the farmer). By paying the lower amount, Starbucks took $387 million out of the farmers’ pockets. As green prices keep falling, Starbucks has continued to pay coffee farmers less, while charging consumers more.  So, who is winning this game? Not the farmers, not the public and not the environment. Instead of paying enough to support the farmers, large and small coffee companies contribute lesser amounts to nonprofits for clean water, health and environmental projects under the banner of “corporate sustainability.” If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. If Starbucks returned to its 2012 broker and farmer prices, it nearly would double family income on most small farms. To family farms in Nicaragua, Peru, Ethiopia and Indonesia, that $1,400 could pay for healthcare, children’s education, proper nutrition and technology to produce higher yields and reduce their need to clear land. Even a 25-cent increase in the price paid to farmers, which would get Starbucks closer to the prices paid by truly committed coffee companies, would bring $150 million back to the farms and its stock price would not even blink. As an industry, we have lived long and well by treating farmers just like coffee. We see them as fungible commodities instead of true partners in the success of our businesses who are integral to effective adaptation to climate change and other issues of the day. The days of maximizing profits without seriously incorporating farmers’ concerns that bind us all together are over. It is time to pay up. Pull Quote If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. Topics Food & Agriculture Equity & Inclusion Environmental Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production

How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop

June 4, 2020 by  
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How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop Jesse Klein Thu, 06/04/2020 – 01:45 Cranberries are more than just an American Thanksgiving Day tradition; they also are a tradition of the American land. The crop is one of only three native cultivated fruits in North America. Because the plant is actually meant to grow in the natural environment, many growing and harvesting practices already help the surrounding land and could be considered sustainable, under normal conditions. The berry grows best in boggy, water-soaked soil that can’t be used for many other crops. And every one acre of cranberry bog requires 5.5 acres of wild marsh needed around it — a built-in wetlands preservation strategy.  “It’s a symbiotic relationship,” said Chris Ferzli, director of global corporate affairs and communications for Ocean Spray, the well-known agricultural co-operative, which generates annual revenue of about $2 billion. “The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land.” Ocean Spray recently took advantage of the crop’s natural sustainability to become the first major food manufacturer in the United States to have its entire crop be certified “100 percent sustainable.” Specifically, the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI Platform) used its Farm Sustainability Assessment to verify that each organization within Ocean Spray’s 700-farm co-op is operating with regenerative agriculture in mind.  The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land. SAI’s Farm Sustainability Assessment dives into 112 questions over 17 categories to evaluate a farm’s investment in sustainable practices. The questions range from the safety of workers to nuanced issues of greenhouse gas emissions, and they are categorized in three ways: “essential,” “basic” and “advanced.”  For example, one question — “Do you take measures to maximize energy use efficiency such as optimizing your farm equipment and optimizing electricity use?” — checks if farmers are reducing non-renewable sources of energy, avoiding forest degradation or conversion and optimizing farm equipment usage.  In order for the crop to be considered 100 percent sustainable, all of Ocean Spray’s farms had to score well for 100 percent of the 23 essential questions, at least 80 percent of the 60 basic questions and at least 50 percent of the 29 advanced questions.  A third-party auditor, SCS Global, verified each Ocean Spray farm’s answers.  “The biggest challenge was the gap in how we define things and how a certifying body might define things,” Ocean Spray farmer Nicole Hansen wrote in an email when asked to describe how tough the certification process was from the farmer’s point of view. “In the end, we are all talking the same language. Maybe just a different dialect.”  Hansen’s farm, Cranberry Creek Cranberries, joined the Ocean Spray co-op in the late 1990s and is one of the largest producers in Wisconsin. According to Ferzli, the adjustments the farmers had to make were few and mostly centered on upgrading technologies that made sense for the specific bogs.  There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it. For example, moisture probes help farmers conserve water by collecting real-time data and only watering when the soil dips below a certain limit instead of on a set schedule. Temperature monitors feed into smart systems and are able to more accurately measure temperatures at both the top and bottom of a cranberry bed than traditionally handheld thermometers.  When building new beds, laser levelers help ensure the bed is flat and even, so that floodwater moves efficiently during harvest season, keeping the amount needed at a minimum. Farmers also addressed irrigation systems and sprinklers that had unnecessary runoff, causing water waste.  While most of these changes were inexpensive, Ferzli said Ocean Spray does help its farmers apply for grants so they can put the most innovative and sustainable technologies in place, including the Baker-Polito Administration grant that awarded $991,837 to 21 cranberry growers in 2019, 15 of which are part of the Ocean Spray co-op. Another factor leading to Ocean Spray’s milestone was the structural history of the cranberry crop. Cranberries are already a very consolidated operation with almost all of the U.S.’s cranberries grown in Wisconsin or Massachusetts. In 2017 , Wisconsin produced 5.4 billion barrels and Massachusetts produced 1.9 million. Ocean Spray’s co-op makes up a large percentage of those farms. In fact, of the 414 cranberry growers in Massachusetts, 65 percent are part of the Ocean Spray family.  The coalition of cranberry growers and the administrative structure in place was vital. Ocean Spray growers already submit a farm assessment survey required by retail partners such as Walmart that covers the health and safety of their workers and renewable energy.  That meant the co-op had the structure to distribute the SAI Platform survey, collect the data, make adjustments and comply with an audit, making getting to 100 percent much more feasible and streamlined than if the structure weren’t already in place.  “The farmers wanted to do it,” Ferzli said. “There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it.” The verification applies to Ocean Spray’s agriculture program and operations for three years. The company plans to survey the farmers every year and continue the verification process every three years when it comes up for audit. Only then will we know if growing sustainably is sustainable for the business.   Pull Quote The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land. There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it. Topics Food & Agriculture Food & Agriculture Sustainability Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An Ocean Spray cranberry farm. Courtesy of Ocean Spray Close Authorship

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How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop

How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop

June 4, 2020 by  
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How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop Jesse Klein Thu, 06/04/2020 – 01:45 Cranberries are more than just an American Thanksgiving Day tradition; they also are a tradition of the American land. The crop is one of only three native cultivated fruits in North America. Because the plant is actually meant to grow in the natural environment, many growing and harvesting practices already help the surrounding land and could be considered sustainable, under normal conditions. The berry grows best in boggy, water-soaked soil that can’t be used for many other crops. And every one acre of cranberry bog requires 5.5 acres of wild marsh needed around it — a built-in wetlands preservation strategy.  “It’s a symbiotic relationship,” said Chris Ferzli, director of global corporate affairs and communications for Ocean Spray, the well-known agricultural co-operative, which generates annual revenue of about $2 billion. “The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land.” Ocean Spray recently took advantage of the crop’s natural sustainability to become the first major food manufacturer in the United States to have its entire crop be certified “100 percent sustainable.” Specifically, the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI Platform) used its Farm Sustainability Assessment to verify that each organization within Ocean Spray’s 700-farm co-op is operating with regenerative agriculture in mind.  The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land. SAI’s Farm Sustainability Assessment dives into 112 questions over 17 categories to evaluate a farm’s investment in sustainable practices. The questions range from the safety of workers to nuanced issues of greenhouse gas emissions, and they are categorized in three ways: “essential,” “basic” and “advanced.”  For example, one question — “Do you take measures to maximize energy use efficiency such as optimizing your farm equipment and optimizing electricity use?” — checks if farmers are reducing non-renewable sources of energy, avoiding forest degradation or conversion and optimizing farm equipment usage.  In order for the crop to be considered 100 percent sustainable, all of Ocean Spray’s farms had to score well for 100 percent of the 23 essential questions, at least 80 percent of the 60 basic questions and at least 50 percent of the 29 advanced questions.  A third-party auditor, SCS Global, verified each Ocean Spray farm’s answers.  “The biggest challenge was the gap in how we define things and how a certifying body might define things,” Ocean Spray farmer Nicole Hansen wrote in an email when asked to describe how tough the certification process was from the farmer’s point of view. “In the end, we are all talking the same language. Maybe just a different dialect.”  Hansen’s farm, Cranberry Creek Cranberries, joined the Ocean Spray co-op in the late 1990s and is one of the largest producers in Wisconsin. According to Ferzli, the adjustments the farmers had to make were few and mostly centered on upgrading technologies that made sense for the specific bogs.  There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it. For example, moisture probes help farmers conserve water by collecting real-time data and only watering when the soil dips below a certain limit instead of on a set schedule. Temperature monitors feed into smart systems and are able to more accurately measure temperatures at both the top and bottom of a cranberry bed than traditionally handheld thermometers.  When building new beds, laser levelers help ensure the bed is flat and even, so that floodwater moves efficiently during harvest season, keeping the amount needed at a minimum. Farmers also addressed irrigation systems and sprinklers that had unnecessary runoff, causing water waste.  While most of these changes were inexpensive, Ferzli said Ocean Spray does help its farmers apply for grants so they can put the most innovative and sustainable technologies in place, including the Baker-Polito Administration grant that awarded $991,837 to 21 cranberry growers in 2019, 15 of which are part of the Ocean Spray co-op. Another factor leading to Ocean Spray’s milestone was the structural history of the cranberry crop. Cranberries are already a very consolidated operation with almost all of the U.S.’s cranberries grown in Wisconsin or Massachusetts. In 2017 , Wisconsin produced 5.4 billion barrels and Massachusetts produced 1.9 million. Ocean Spray’s co-op makes up a large percentage of those farms. In fact, of the 414 cranberry growers in Massachusetts, 65 percent are part of the Ocean Spray family.  The coalition of cranberry growers and the administrative structure in place was vital. Ocean Spray growers already submit a farm assessment survey required by retail partners such as Walmart that covers the health and safety of their workers and renewable energy.  That meant the co-op had the structure to distribute the SAI Platform survey, collect the data, make adjustments and comply with an audit, making getting to 100 percent much more feasible and streamlined than if the structure weren’t already in place.  “The farmers wanted to do it,” Ferzli said. “There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it.” The verification applies to Ocean Spray’s agriculture program and operations for three years. The company plans to survey the farmers every year and continue the verification process every three years when it comes up for audit. Only then will we know if growing sustainably is sustainable for the business.   Pull Quote The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land. There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it. Topics Food & Agriculture Food & Agriculture Sustainability Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An Ocean Spray cranberry farm. Courtesy of Ocean Spray Close Authorship

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How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop

Can companies rely on regenerative agriculture’s carbon removal impact?

May 29, 2020 by  
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Can companies rely on regenerative agriculture’s carbon removal impact? Jim Giles Fri, 05/29/2020 – 01:30 Amid the recent headline-grabbing investments in food ventures, one event went largely unnoticed: FedEx’s involvement in a $200 million raise by Indigo Ag, a company that provides services and data to farmers. Why would a delivery behemoth invest in an outfit that sells seeds? The answer lies in agricultural soils. FedEx wants to offset its carbon footprint, and Indigo knows farmers who can help. Under the deal, Indigo will use FedEx’s money to pay farmers to implement regenerative methods , such as cover crops. These methods will store carbon in soils, earning FedEx carbon offsets. A major corporation is helping farmers earn much-needed revenue by drawing down carbon and increasing soil fertility. It’s likely that other companies will follow. If enough do, we could store hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide in farmland soils. This is welcome news, right? Well, it’s complicated. A few weeks back, I noted that our understanding of how carbon is stored in soil is far from complete . Since then, two new analyses have raised further questions about soil-based offsets. One comes from the World Resources Institute. Ag specialists there are concerned about “additionality,” an issue that has long plagued carbon markets. Soil carbon sequestration markets will grow but are unlikely carbon emissions saviors. Take the case of a farmer spreading manure to build soil carbon. “Because there is a limited supply of manure in the world,” the WRI team noted , “using it in one place almost always means taking it from elsewhere, so no additional carbon is added to the world’s soils overall.” Analysts at Lux Research studied regenerative ag recently and also reached skeptical conclusions . They questioned whether farmers will be able to store as much carbon per acre as some published claims, for instance. “Soil carbon sequestration markets will grow but are unlikely carbon emissions saviors,” the Lux team wrote. These issues are real but not deal-breakers, reply advocates of regenerative ag. What we need, they say, is a transparent and rigorous system that tracks the data we care about, including the duration of carbon storage and the origin of inputs used by farmers. We can then use that system to reward only the farmers that capture additional carbon and store it for the long term. I tend to agree with these advocates, but the debate reminds me of arguments about another kind of offset, and I wonder if there is a cautionary tale here. Forests have huge sequestration potential and are a big part of carbon markets, but for a time forestry offsets were dogged by questions of reliability. Even now, when auditing is much improved and large companies are working to plant a trillion trees , I still encounter skepticism. Lack of transparency is part of the reason why. In the case of forests, at least in the early days, buyers couldn’t be sure that forestry projects in remote regions of the world delivered real carbon benefits. For regenerative ag, the risk is data. Even with rigorous protocols, we need to see soil science data. Lots of it, from multiple ecological regions and with verification by third parties. Because without transparency around soil science data, there’s a double risk: Bad offsets will get funded and the good offsets — the ones that really draw down carbon — will be tainted. This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here  to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote Soil carbon sequestration markets will grow but are unlikely carbon emissions saviors. Topics Carbon Removal Food & Agriculture Carbon Removal Offsets Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Can companies rely on regenerative agriculture’s carbon removal impact?

Can companies rely on regenerative agriculture’s carbon removal impact?

May 29, 2020 by  
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Can companies rely on regenerative agriculture’s carbon removal impact? Jim Giles Fri, 05/29/2020 – 01:30 Amid the recent headline-grabbing investments in food ventures, one event went largely unnoticed: FedEx’s involvement in a $200 million raise by Indigo Ag, a company that provides services and data to farmers. Why would a delivery behemoth invest in an outfit that sells seeds? The answer lies in agricultural soils. FedEx wants to offset its carbon footprint, and Indigo knows farmers who can help. Under the deal, Indigo will use FedEx’s money to pay farmers to implement regenerative methods , such as cover crops. These methods will store carbon in soils, earning FedEx carbon offsets. A major corporation is helping farmers earn much-needed revenue by drawing down carbon and increasing soil fertility. It’s likely that other companies will follow. If enough do, we could store hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide in farmland soils. This is welcome news, right? Well, it’s complicated. A few weeks back, I noted that our understanding of how carbon is stored in soil is far from complete . Since then, two new analyses have raised further questions about soil-based offsets. One comes from the World Resources Institute. Ag specialists there are concerned about “additionality,” an issue that has long plagued carbon markets. Soil carbon sequestration markets will grow but are unlikely carbon emissions saviors. Take the case of a farmer spreading manure to build soil carbon. “Because there is a limited supply of manure in the world,” the WRI team noted , “using it in one place almost always means taking it from elsewhere, so no additional carbon is added to the world’s soils overall.” Analysts at Lux Research studied regenerative ag recently and also reached skeptical conclusions . They questioned whether farmers will be able to store as much carbon per acre as some published claims, for instance. “Soil carbon sequestration markets will grow but are unlikely carbon emissions saviors,” the Lux team wrote. These issues are real but not deal-breakers, reply advocates of regenerative ag. What we need, they say, is a transparent and rigorous system that tracks the data we care about, including the duration of carbon storage and the origin of inputs used by farmers. We can then use that system to reward only the farmers that capture additional carbon and store it for the long term. I tend to agree with these advocates, but the debate reminds me of arguments about another kind of offset, and I wonder if there is a cautionary tale here. Forests have huge sequestration potential and are a big part of carbon markets, but for a time forestry offsets were dogged by questions of reliability. Even now, when auditing is much improved and large companies are working to plant a trillion trees , I still encounter skepticism. Lack of transparency is part of the reason why. In the case of forests, at least in the early days, buyers couldn’t be sure that forestry projects in remote regions of the world delivered real carbon benefits. For regenerative ag, the risk is data. Even with rigorous protocols, we need to see soil science data. Lots of it, from multiple ecological regions and with verification by third parties. Because without transparency around soil science data, there’s a double risk: Bad offsets will get funded and the good offsets — the ones that really draw down carbon — will be tainted. This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here  to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote Soil carbon sequestration markets will grow but are unlikely carbon emissions saviors. Topics Carbon Removal Food & Agriculture Carbon Removal Offsets Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Can companies rely on regenerative agriculture’s carbon removal impact?

The farm-to-food-bank movement rescues pandemic-related food waste

May 18, 2020 by  
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Farmers are burying onions, destroying tomatoes and grinding up heads of lettuce to return to the soil. Dairy workers are dumping milk. These images of food destruction have horrified Americans during the pandemic . Farmers shouldn’t have to destroy the crops they’ve poured their money, energy, time and strength into. Hungry people shouldn’t witness the destruction of food that they could cook for their families. But farmers and organizations are working to save this food and bring it to those in need. COVID-19 has hurt people in many ways, but the food supply chain has been hit especially hard. Since restaurants, hotels, schools and cruise ships have shut down, farmers have lost about 40% of their customer base on average. Some farms have lost their main outlets. For example, RC Hatton Farms in Florida has had to disk — that is, grind up and recycle into the soil — hundreds of acres of cabbage since the crop has lost its future as KFC slaw. Related: How to volunteer during COVID-19 Meanwhile, with the U.S. unemployment rate stretching toward 15% , more Americans could make use of those crops. The question is, how can the food supply chains be rerouted before all of the vegetables and milk spoil? Worldwide food insecurity may double this year because of COVID-19. In relatively affluent America, people are waiting in line for hours to get to food pantries. Fortunately, the world is full of clever and helpful people. From individuals to large organizations, people are devising ways to redistribute food to those who need it. From farms to food banks Food banks are nonprofit organizations that store food donated from retailers, restaurants, grocery stores and individuals. This food is then distributed to food pantries, where people can take home food to eat. Food pantries provide millions of free meals per year. With their restaurant and institutional clients closed by COVID-19, more farmers are trying to donate crops straight to food banks. But donation doesn’t come free. While most farmers would vastly prefer to donate their vegetables than to let them rot in fields, those crops don’t harvest themselves. Nor do they pack themselves for shipping or drive to the nearest food bank. Some states are working hard to facilitate getting crops to the people. At the end of April, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a $3.64 million expansion to the state’s Farm to Family program. By the end of the year, he expects this campaign to reach $15 million. The Farm to Family program is a partnership between the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Association of Food Banks. The USDA has approved redirecting $2 million in unused Specialty Crop Block Grant funds to the California Association of Food Banks. This will help cover costs of picking, packing and transporting the produce to food banks. “Putting food on the table during this pandemic is hard for families on the brink,” Newsom said in a press release. “It’s in that spirit that we’re expanding our Farm to Family program while also working to connect low-income families with vital resources and financial support. We thank our farmers for stepping up to donate fresh produce to our food banks . And we want families struggling to access food to know we have your backs.” In New Mexico, the state chapter of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) launched its own Farm to Foodbank program. The group will fund farmers to continue producing organic produce, which will be routed to food pantries. AFSC is also helping farmers buy supplies, such as seeds, masks, gloves and irrigation systems. In return, the farmers sign contracts promising produce to community members suffering from food insecurity. For example, farmers at Acoma Pueblo requested seeds and promised to donate a part of their crops to the senior center. Help from private companies Some companies are also assisting in moving surplus crops to food banks. Florida-based Publix Super Markets has long been donating food to Feeding America’s member food banks and other nonprofits. In the last 10 years, Publix has donated about $2 billion worth of food, or 480 million pounds. Now, the supermarket chain is stepping up its efforts and buying unsold fresh milk and produce from Florida and regional producers and donating these goods to Feeding America food banks. “As a food retailer, we have the unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the needs of families and farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” Todd Jones, chief executive officer of Publix, told NPR . Other supermarket chains have announced large monetary donations to food banks during the pandemic, including $50 million from Albertsons. Kroger Co. set up a $10 million Emergency COVID-19 Response Fund. To celebrate Earth Day , Natural Grocers donated $50,000 in gift cards to food banks. Individual giving Some farmers have taken direct action to get their crops to families. Idaho potato farmer Ryan Cranney invited the public to help themselves to his millions of unsold potatoes. “At first I thought we’d have maybe 20 people,” Cranney said in an interview . He was amazed when thousands of people drove to his town, with a population of 700, and hauled away potatoes. “We saw people from as far away as Las Vegas, which is an 8-hour drive from here,” he said. Of course, most of us don’t have millions of potatoes to spare. But we can still help food banks. In better times, food banks appreciate shelf-stable foods like peanut butter and tomato paste. But right now, the best thing you can do as an individual is to give money. Feeding America, the biggest hunger relief organization in the U.S, has about 200 member food banks. If you’re able to spare a few dollars, you can donate to its COVID-19 Response Fund . Via CBS 8 , Santa Fe New Mexican and Politico Images via Philippe Collard , Hai Nguyen , U.S. Department of Agriculture and Dennis Sparks

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The farm-to-food-bank movement rescues pandemic-related food waste

The farm-to-food-bank movement rescues pandemic-related food waste

May 18, 2020 by  
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Farmers are burying onions, destroying tomatoes and grinding up heads of lettuce to return to the soil. Dairy workers are dumping milk. These images of food destruction have horrified Americans during the pandemic . Farmers shouldn’t have to destroy the crops they’ve poured their money, energy, time and strength into. Hungry people shouldn’t witness the destruction of food that they could cook for their families. But farmers and organizations are working to save this food and bring it to those in need. COVID-19 has hurt people in many ways, but the food supply chain has been hit especially hard. Since restaurants, hotels, schools and cruise ships have shut down, farmers have lost about 40% of their customer base on average. Some farms have lost their main outlets. For example, RC Hatton Farms in Florida has had to disk — that is, grind up and recycle into the soil — hundreds of acres of cabbage since the crop has lost its future as KFC slaw. Related: How to volunteer during COVID-19 Meanwhile, with the U.S. unemployment rate stretching toward 15% , more Americans could make use of those crops. The question is, how can the food supply chains be rerouted before all of the vegetables and milk spoil? Worldwide food insecurity may double this year because of COVID-19. In relatively affluent America, people are waiting in line for hours to get to food pantries. Fortunately, the world is full of clever and helpful people. From individuals to large organizations, people are devising ways to redistribute food to those who need it. From farms to food banks Food banks are nonprofit organizations that store food donated from retailers, restaurants, grocery stores and individuals. This food is then distributed to food pantries, where people can take home food to eat. Food pantries provide millions of free meals per year. With their restaurant and institutional clients closed by COVID-19, more farmers are trying to donate crops straight to food banks. But donation doesn’t come free. While most farmers would vastly prefer to donate their vegetables than to let them rot in fields, those crops don’t harvest themselves. Nor do they pack themselves for shipping or drive to the nearest food bank. Some states are working hard to facilitate getting crops to the people. At the end of April, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a $3.64 million expansion to the state’s Farm to Family program. By the end of the year, he expects this campaign to reach $15 million. The Farm to Family program is a partnership between the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Association of Food Banks. The USDA has approved redirecting $2 million in unused Specialty Crop Block Grant funds to the California Association of Food Banks. This will help cover costs of picking, packing and transporting the produce to food banks. “Putting food on the table during this pandemic is hard for families on the brink,” Newsom said in a press release. “It’s in that spirit that we’re expanding our Farm to Family program while also working to connect low-income families with vital resources and financial support. We thank our farmers for stepping up to donate fresh produce to our food banks . And we want families struggling to access food to know we have your backs.” In New Mexico, the state chapter of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) launched its own Farm to Foodbank program. The group will fund farmers to continue producing organic produce, which will be routed to food pantries. AFSC is also helping farmers buy supplies, such as seeds, masks, gloves and irrigation systems. In return, the farmers sign contracts promising produce to community members suffering from food insecurity. For example, farmers at Acoma Pueblo requested seeds and promised to donate a part of their crops to the senior center. Help from private companies Some companies are also assisting in moving surplus crops to food banks. Florida-based Publix Super Markets has long been donating food to Feeding America’s member food banks and other nonprofits. In the last 10 years, Publix has donated about $2 billion worth of food, or 480 million pounds. Now, the supermarket chain is stepping up its efforts and buying unsold fresh milk and produce from Florida and regional producers and donating these goods to Feeding America food banks. “As a food retailer, we have the unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the needs of families and farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” Todd Jones, chief executive officer of Publix, told NPR . Other supermarket chains have announced large monetary donations to food banks during the pandemic, including $50 million from Albertsons. Kroger Co. set up a $10 million Emergency COVID-19 Response Fund. To celebrate Earth Day , Natural Grocers donated $50,000 in gift cards to food banks. Individual giving Some farmers have taken direct action to get their crops to families. Idaho potato farmer Ryan Cranney invited the public to help themselves to his millions of unsold potatoes. “At first I thought we’d have maybe 20 people,” Cranney said in an interview . He was amazed when thousands of people drove to his town, with a population of 700, and hauled away potatoes. “We saw people from as far away as Las Vegas, which is an 8-hour drive from here,” he said. Of course, most of us don’t have millions of potatoes to spare. But we can still help food banks. In better times, food banks appreciate shelf-stable foods like peanut butter and tomato paste. But right now, the best thing you can do as an individual is to give money. Feeding America, the biggest hunger relief organization in the U.S, has about 200 member food banks. If you’re able to spare a few dollars, you can donate to its COVID-19 Response Fund . Via CBS 8 , Santa Fe New Mexican and Politico Images via Philippe Collard , Hai Nguyen , U.S. Department of Agriculture and Dennis Sparks

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The farm-to-food-bank movement rescues pandemic-related food waste

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