By Tim Alexander
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – New management options and financial opportunities for farmers within the ecosystem market are emerging courtesy of the nation’s leading input providers. Representatives of input manufacturers Bayer CropScience, Corteva Agriscience and Nutrien Ag Solutions joined the Illinois Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (ISAC) and organizations from Indiana, Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin for a June 22 webinar that explained the companies’ carbon and water quality programs.
“We try to keep the farmers at the center of the program as we continue to evolve our offerings,” said Lisa Streck, responsible for grower acquisition at Bayer. “We launched our pilot program in 2020 and incorporated the feedback from that program. We’ve also established a carbon advisory panel that has growers across the Midwest guiding us. Through those different settings with farmers and through additional research, (we’ve learned) what’s important to farmers in carbon programs is simplicity, flexibility and certainty.”
Those three themes are woven throughout the Bayer carbon program, which requires a Climate FieldView account and an agreement to share field data in order for a farmer to participate. Farmers will share the field conservation practices they have adopted or plan to adopt (such as no-till, strip-till or cover crops) with Bayer agronomists, who will help them to implement or maximize climate-smart practices.
Verification is accomplished by providing Bayer with timely data that documents their soil and water conservation practices, along with occasional, scheduled on-site verifications by independent observers.
“We’ve structured our programs to pay on a per-acre basis by practice. Bayer registers the carbon credit on a carbon registry that can help us achieve our internal sustainability commitments, or be made available to companies that are working to achieve theirs,” Streck said.
The Bayer carbon program is now available to farmers in 17 states, with coverage across the Corn Belt and including some southern and eastern states. Growers who have adopted climate-smart practices since 2012 are eligible to enroll in the Bayer program and receive retroactive payments for up to five years of prior carbon sequestration. These “historical” payments are not offered by all ecosystem market companies.
Farmers who operate on rented or owned land are eligible for the Bayer carbon program. For the 2021 season, they can reasonably expect to receive around $3 per acre for no-till or strip-till land in year one, with an extra $6 per acre in year two for installing cover crops. Contacts generally run for 10 years. More info: www.bayer.com/en/us/enhanced-carbon-program.
Corteva’s carbon initiative is broadly offering $5 to $20 per acre for farmers who introduced cover crops or switched to conservation tillage for the current growing season, according to company spokesperson Emma Fuller. Corteva guarantees farmers carbon purchases of $15 per metric ton (MT), with the company providing record-keeping, soil sampling and purchasers for the credits.
“Our goal since day one has been making this simple and transparent for farmers, and really focusing on the outcome of (the credits) they are generating,” Fuller said, adding that the Corteva program is open to corn and soybean growers in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. “We expect to see increases in geography and crops going into 2022.”
Corteva currently does not offer historical payments to farmers for past adaptation of climate-smart practices. “We’re somewhat stuck between offering credits that buyers will actually purchase, so while we’re focused on trying to find solutions for those early adopters we didn’t want to hold back on the opportunity to offer (the program) to farms today,” Fuller said.
Under the Corteva program, if a farmer devoted 420 acres to conservation tillage and cover crops and earned a half-ton carbon credit per acre over the course of one year, he or she would stand to earn a payment of more than $3,000 by selling the credits to Corteva at $15 per MT.
Corteva’s carbon purchasing program is part of the company’s 2030 sustainability goals and Climate Positive Commitment. Initial farmer contacts last for two years. More info: www.granular.ag/carbon/.
Nutrien Ag Solutions
Sally Flis, sustainable agriculture field manager at Nutrien, said the company has a “slightly different approach” to how it is conducting its pilot carbon programs this year. “We are approaching this challenge through a portfolio program where we’re building on our other supply chain partners, downstream manufacturers and processors, growers and crop consultants, along with other strategic supplier-partners like Corteva, who are helping out with our seed pilot in Indiana,” she said.
Nutrien’s carbon portfolio also leverages key industry partners and supply chain stakeholders including American Farmland Trust, BASF, PepsiCo and Syngenta, among others. Their 2021 pilot programs are available to farmers in more than a dozen states and parts of Canada, encompassing more than 200,000 acres.
“We provide year-round agronomic support to growers who implement our principles on the ground, in addition to data collection opportunities, soil and tissue testing and lab abilities, and work to find the best buyers and best value for them,” Flis said.
Financial opportunities for growers include nutrient management credits. Fertilizer management practices can earn credits, along with no-till and cover crop adaptation, according to Flis. No information was shared during the webinar as to how much a farmer could expect to earn on a per-acre basis through their enrollment in Nutrien’s carbon program. More info: www.nutrien.com/sustainability/strategy/feeding-planet-sustainably/carbon-program.
A full recording of the June 22 Farming for the Future webinar, part of an ISAC summer webinar series, may be viewed at www.ilsustainableag.org/ecomarkets. Subsequent series webinars are scheduled for July 13 and July 15, 2021.