A Seat At The Table: Inviting American Farmers to Engage on Carbon

carbonThis week’s blog comes from Tim Weaver, Holganix’s Chief Strategy Officer and a member of Holganix’s leadership team. Tim is laser-focused on policy, scaling strategies, branding, and beyond. Over the past 20 years, Tim’s orchestrated the generation of over $900M in incentives for previous companies operating in sustainable markets in North America and Europe and has generated $2B in economic development.  

So, I'm having a very cold beer on a cool night with a farmer a few months ago. Successful multi-generation farmer, a great person, fellow Kansan. Conversation ranges across the normal topics of commodity pricing, fertilizer costs, equipment, interest rates ... the normal stuff. We get brave and venture off to talk about the election and politics, even religion and faith are brought up. And then I give my view on carbon and the new world I think we entered a few years ago and are just now understanding. That was the topic that made the air grow colder, my farm friend's face grow stiff, and got me a very terse reaction. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that carbon and everything related to it was fraud, fad, and fiction. End of discussion. Out of all those topics, it was carbon that ended the conversation and ended it fast. 

I realize that what I'm about to write may be off-putting to some, but I believe in this and I've seen patterns like this before in global markets. In my heart, I know that farmers deserve to be in the know, and have open minds, as the topic of carbon and its value in agriculture is showing up in more and more conversations. So, I will lead with this statement: The carbon revolution for agriculture took place a few years ago and we are just now starting to see the beginning signs that this is a new reality dawning on American farms and farms globally. 

The first thing I want every farmer to know is something they already know – follow the money. Of course, that involves the government, but we'll get to that later. When I say follow the money, I first mean THE money. In the past five years, over half of the largest global banks have made carbon-neutral pledges and have shifted their programming. Since that ship launched, it's very difficult to turn it back. Of course, some of those pledged are soft and others toothless. I can tell you that financial and policy change rarely meets its deadlines on time, but can move in unstoppable inertia (like when you’re starting off with a few hundred trillion dollars of initial intent).   

So now when you are hearing about scope one and two and three, offsets, undersets, oversets, insets, or credits, remember this: There are forces of massive investors, lenders, and insurers driving finance behind many brands and businesses we know have already decided that carbon is going to matter. You’ve read about CI scores on corn, but have you noticed people talking about CI scores on chicken, beef and pork? I have.   

I'd also invite you to note that most of these pledges have been made publicly and some by publicly traded companies. No one wants to be accused of greenwashing, especially those who are publicly listed and have made their climate commitments part of their core value as a business. 

For sure, government incentives and public policy matter. It might be the carrot, or it might be the stick (or both at the same time). Sometimes those policy winds blow hard and go away, other times those tailwinds become a reality that shapes generations. I'll leave it to others to debate, both in the United States and globally, the intermediate and long-term future of governmental carbon focus. Typically, you can look east to Europe and then west to California to see how the climate policy winds will blow down your street in time. I will tell you that I honestly believe carbon is going to be an issue discussed in the coffee shop more and more, and for longer than the next few presidential elections.   

I’ll use one of my favorite phrases when it comes to policy to start to wrap up: if you don’t have a seat at the table, that probably means you’re on the menu. Farmers need to engage on carbon.   

I will echo what I think a lot of smart farmers have said: sustainable farming is good farming. Growers can do things good for their soil and their yield AND their balance sheet all at the same time. I like the idea of farmers possessing the most powerful tool in the world when it comes to carbon sequestration and the credit it brings. Farmers are naturally solution-based. Farmers are well-trained to find profit and efficiency season after season. And you can't tell me that there's anyone out there who cares about the ground, water, or air more than the farmers who grow and produce our food. There's plenty about climate, carbon, and sustainability that is not clear, but there are some things that are. 

We all should have these carbon conversations. Decisions are being made and trends are being set.  Farmers grow solutions and adapt for a living. With that in mind, I’m still looking forward to the next chat with the next farmer about carbon, no matter how it goes. We all need to be open to sharing and learning. The first very cold beer is on me.

Posted by Tim Weaver on Apr 25, 2024 9:30:00 AM
Tim Weaver

Tim Weaver

Topics: agriculture, carbon, farmers, american farmer

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