Enhancing Biodiversity: The Critical Role of Grazing 

Biodiversity is more than a buzzword. It is a critical component of shaping the future of healthy and productive working lands. At AgSpire, we believe that understanding and harnessing biodiversity is not merely about compliance; it’s about adopting a transformative approach that elevates the land’s productivity and resilience for future generations.  

In the realm of ranching, biodiversity encompasses a range of plant species, soil organisms, insects, and wildlife, each playing a vital role in nutrient cycling, soil health, and forage quality. This rich diversity is an ally in building robust grazing systems, capable of withstanding environmental stresses. More importantly, it directly contributes to improved herd health and overall productivity.  

As our team develops programs related to grazing management and advises ranchers, here are four ways we can contribute to enhanced biodiversity – and deliver positive impact for ranchers: 

> The Synergy of Grazing and Plant Growth 

For grazing management to truly be effective, it must be underpinned by a deep understanding of the plant growth patterns for all the species present in the field. By aligning grazing intensity and timing with these plant growth patterns, ranchers can see a more a more consistent supply of forage while also promoting the long-term health of plant communities.  

When visiting a ranch, our technical advisors help analyze current plant community types to understand their growth cycles and timing, and using this knowledge to make informed grazing decisions. 

AgSpire advisor works with a rancher to analyze his pasture and plan for improvements.

> Rest, Rotation, and Resilience 

While rest and rotation are commonly associated with forage management, they are equally crucial for nurturing biodiversity. Properly timed rest periods allow for the establishment of new plant communities, vital for maintaining a diverse ecosystem. Appropriate rest can be challenging, especially during extreme weather conditions, but the long-term resilience and health of biodiverse grazing acres are invaluable assets during tough times. 

> Rangeland Succession: A Strategic Approach 

Rangeland succession – or the replacement of unhealthy plant communities by another – is just like managing a herd’s genetics; it requires a hands-on, strategic approach with long term vision. This process can significantly impact your land and herd – for better or worse – and therefore, must be guided intentionally. Practices like diverse seeding, controlled burns, and managed grazing are key to fostering a variety of plant species that support a healthier ecosystem. 

> Legumes: A Natural Boost to Your Grazing Lands 

Incorporating legumes pasturelands is a game-changer. These nitrogen-fixing plants enhance soil fertility, reduce fertilizer needs, and provide high-quality forage for livestock. By incorporating legumes, a rancher is not only improving soil health but also boosting the protein intake for their cattle.

About the Author

DREW SLATTERY
Senior Sustainability Project Manager

Drew Slattery, with his extensive experience in the regenerative agriculture and corporate sustainability realm, is committed to enhancing the impact on natural resources and the climate across global supply chains.

Throughout his career, Drew has partnered with leading agricultural and food brands to evolve their supply chains for greater sustainability and reduced carbon footprints. This has given him a broad range of expertise – from remote sensing, to ag media, producer  engagement, behavior change programming, and corporate sustainability – and experience working with the beef, dairy, row crop, and specialty crop sectors.

Planning Your 2024 Scope 3 Approach

The start of a new year is a great time to reflect back on 2023 and evaluate what to incorporate into your company’s scope 3 approach for the year ahead. At AgSpire, we were particularly excited about the following developments that will create infrastructure for more on the ground scope 3 outcomes, streamlined claimability, and more payments to producers in the coming year.  

  • ESMC became the first user of SustainCERT’s market-first value chain decarbonization impact solution, which will enable more co-claiming of shared scope 3 intervention outcomes.  
  • Verra launched a scope 3 Standard Program Development Group that will work to ensure Verra’s scope 3 program is designed to unlock immediate and large-scale investment in credible supply chain action.  
  • Science Based Targets Network released the first science-based targets for nature – specifically related to freshwater and land.  
  • Athian announced the establishment of the first-of-its-kind voluntary livestock carbon insetting marketplace.  
  • More than 120 USDA Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities Grants were signed into action and are now in the process of generating outcomes and paying producers.  
  • NRCS awarded more than $1 billion across 81 projects under its Regional Conservation Partnership Program that prioritize the scaling of climate-smart practices.  

Needless to say, there are a multitude of opportunities through which to generate progress. But how do you pick? With only a handful of growing seasons left until 2030 – the deadline for many companies to achieve their near-term science-based targets – even the smallest component of your scope 3 approach needs to have purpose and value.

Here are three ways to ensure you are moving into 2024 with focus and impact:  

> Manage Costs: To scale programs and achieve a greater impact, managing costs is paramount. Careful prioritization and strategic utilization of available resources will help manage costs. 

GHG Protocol makes a clear differentiation between what is required and what is recommended. Prioritize the essentials to ensure your cost of carbon stays within budget. Additionally, public funding mechanisms or other financial partners can be leveraged to amplify the reach and magnitude of outcomes you hope to generate.  

> Watch the Evolving Standards: GHG Protocol has stated that their Land Sector & Removals Guidance is scheduled to be finalized for implementation in 2024. Focus on adhering to those requirements that should not change and those where multi-stakeholder initiatives like the Value Change Initiative are amassing valuable feedback.  

> Provide Programmatic Assistance to Farmers: Technical assistance is just one form of support that producers need to participate in sustainability programs. Most programs also require large amounts of data collection, data cleaning, reporting, and in some cases, audit time to allow buyers to claim outcomes. As GHG Protocol requirements become clearer, so will the need to help producers accomplish these tasks. 

About the Author

ZACH PINTO
Director, Carbon & Ecosystem Service Markets

Zach promotes company strategy and client success by assisting industry groups, food and ag companies, and farmers on their sustainability goals. Zach has worked on carbon issues for stakeholders across the agriculture value chain and in a wide array of commodities, developing expertise in farm-level carbon accounting, MRV platform usage, voluntary and compliance market schemes, science-based targets, ESG reporting, and strategic planning.

Leveraging Alternative Funding Mechanisms

Companies who are looking to launch projects that will help them achieve scope 3 targets must ask many questions right out of the gate: What types of interventions should we focus on?  What region do we start in first?  Who are the right partners?  How do we quantify the outcomes?  And finally – Who is going to pay for this? 

Certainly, alignment of upstream and downstream groups who share scope 3 emissions is a powerful tool for helping to spread out the cost of on the ground implementation of projects. But due to recent funding allocations from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has emerged as another strong partner who can help to bring funds to the table to assist with farm and ranch level practice implementation.  

The USDA has been a long-time proponent of conservation-based practices on farms and ranches around the country and has provided funding through a multitude of programs. Although most of these programs receive funding regularly through Farm Bill reauthorizations, additional funding was included in the IRA in August of 2022. The IRA appropriated approximately $19.5 billion in new funds for agriculture conservation efforts and – more than 25% of those funds were allocated to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), through which Alternative Funding Arrangement (AFA) cooperative agreements will help support place-based, farm-level interventions that can advance progress towards scope 3 targets.   

RCPP is not the only mechanism that can be deployed for launching an on-the-ground project. Additional programs include: 

> Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) On Farm Trials on both the national and state level 

> Conservation Implementation Strategy (CIS) funding pools in certain states, and  

> RCPP Classic, which operates differently than the RCPP AFA listed above. 

Your company’s goals, measurement and verification standards, budgets, and capacity are some of the items that should be considered when choosing a path forward in any of these funding opportunities.   

Over the past three years, AgSpire has been involved with the design and submission for projects that have helped our partners leverage more than $250 million dollars of funding to support voluntary, incentive-based sustainability projects on farms and ranches throughout the country. Contact us to learn more about these programs and how to incorporate them into on-farm programs.

About the Authors

JARED KNOCK
VP, Business Development

As a Vice President of Business Development at AgSpire, a company he co-founded, Jared draws on his 25 years of on-the-ground experience to drive practical and natural solutions within agriculture.

Jared a farmer and rancher from Eastern South Dakota, with a diversified crop and livestock operation that focuses on cow calf production. His expertise has been further honed through his background in livestock genetics, seed sales, and business development. Jared has a degree in Animal Science from South Dakota State University and China Agricultural University in Beijing.

AUSTIN KNIGHT
Technical Advisor, Regenerative Agriculture Systems

Austin grew up helping on the family century farm and now operates that farm with his uncle raising hogs, corn, and soybeans. Austin has seen the effects of incorporating conservation practices on his own farm and uses those experiences to help others incorporate practices on their operations. Prior to joining AgSpire, Austin worked as a Sustainability Agronomist working with producers across the country helping bring value to their operations through sustainable practices.

Austin holds a bachelor’s degree in Agronomy from Iowa State University. He is also a Certified Crop Advisor (CCA).

Meeting Farmers and Ranchers Where They Are

Earlier this year, AgSpire announced our latest initiative – The SustainAg Network. Through this network, we are connecting farmers and ranchers to innovative programs and new markets that align with principles of conservation, sustainability, and regenerative agriculture.  

Read the announcement about The SustainAg Network Launch here >>> 

Since that announcement, the AgSpire team has traveled around the country to meet with producers, leading recruitment for our program portfolio. This boots-on-the-ground approach has given us the opportunity to meet with hundreds of farmers and ranchers, learning first-hand about their goals, motivations, and barriers to sustainable practice adoption.  

 These efforts have revealed several key takeaways for program design and implementation: 

> Producer interest and acceptance  

Producers want to do what is good for the land, their animals, and their businesses – and recognize the value that positive environmental outcomes bring to their operation. There is widespread interest in sustainability programs, both for private-market programs as well as public conservation programs, like EQIP or CSP.  

With a rapidly changing landscape though, many producers are seeking more clarity from these programs. Straightforward requirements, conscious data privacy policies, clear business and agronomic value, and simple incentive structures drive greater interest among farmers and ranchers. 

> Personalized assistance 

As we’ve traveled to different parts of the country, it’s evident that there isn’t – and can’t be – a one-size-fits-all approach to sustainability. Practices must be fine-tuned to an operation for successful implementation. Personalized assistance allows producers to problem-solve and find the right practices and tactics to achieve on-the-ground success.  

This reality contributes to a prevailing hesitation among producers to enroll in programs that lack human interaction. The assurance of one-on-one technical assistance has been a driving factor in program sign-ups so far, offering producers the comfort of relying on experienced individuals for guidance in deploying sustainable practices. 

> Producer-centric program design 

Overwhelmingly, producers are inclined towards voluntary, incentive-based programs that can layer into their current business operations. Rather than require entirely different production models and methods, programs and practices that can fit into and enhance current rotations and commodities have been well received.  

For example, our Grass is Greener program is a first-of-kind program that generates a premium for livestock based on regenerative practices without giving up efficiencies. The appeal lies in the fact that incentives are delivered in the form of practices, and premiums are seamlessly paid through the commodity, offering a straightforward and transparent structure.

AgSpire’s Matthew Delbar and Ryan Eichler met with producers at this year’s South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association Annual Convention.

Ryan Eichler shared about AgSpire’s work and The SustainAg Network with Agweek during the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association convention:

> Read the article here

> Or watch his interview here

About the Author

RYAN EICHLER
Director of Producer Programs

As the Director of Producer Programs, Ryan leads AgSpire’s work to build supply shed networks of producers who are interested in participating in Scope 3 carbon programs. Ryan brings 20 years of experience in the ag industry, working directly with producers in sales roles at companies that include Cargill, Elanco, DSM, and Millborn Seeds. A 2001 graduate of South Dakota State University, Ryan holds a B.S. degree in Animal Science. He and his Family live at rural Lake Preston, SD, where they are active in a family livestock farm.

First Practices Implemented Under USDA Climate-Smart Commodities Programs

After the announcement of the Climate-Smart Commodity projects last year, we’ve entered an exciting new phase of this work: implementation. Following a successful first enrollment season, the AgSpire technical assistance team is now working with farmers and ranchers enrolled in our programs to select and implement new practices like cover cropping, reduced and no-tillage, perennial seedings, holistic grazing, and nutrient management – among others. Our team works with each enrolled producer to help identify the best options and practices for his or her operation and goals. This month, we’ve seen the first cover crops planted, grazing plans implemented, and soil samples pulled.

During the winter season, cover crops are a primary focus. Cover crops are plants grown to produce living “cover” on fallow ground between subsequent cash crops. This living cover provides so many benefits: erosion is reduced, soil health indicators are increased, water availability and infiltration are enhanced, weeds are suppressed, pest and disease cycles are broken, and biodiversity is increased.

Despite these manifold benefits, matching the right cover with the right field at the correct time can seem complicated and overwhelming when first starting to use cover crops in a rotation. Timing, winter moisture, soil type, equipment needs, and need for forage can all factor into if, when, and how to use cover crops. We strive to help farmers overcome these challenges, focusing on the core goals they are attempting to achieve through the practice, while experimenting, learning, and adapting to what works the best for their farm. 

A Deep Dive into Cover Crop Benefits 

Typical fallow periods in the upper Midwest and Great Plains – where our grant programs are currently focused – tend to range from October to late May. Close to six months of the year with nothing growing!  During fallow months, soil erosion and movement is so evident and common place that there is a colloquial term for it: “Snirt,” the combination of snow and dirt. In most cases topsoil from nearby fields is blown into ditches where it mixes with snow, leaving a pile of soil in the ditch in the spring once the snow melts. The topsoil that is left in the ditch is the highest fertility, most productive soils. Some estimates indicate that the loss of major nutrients in one inch of topsoil costs farmers roughly $688.40 per acre (NDSU Extensions, Crop and Pest Report).

Cover crops play a major role in combating this erosion, helping ensure that the healthiest soils are held in place and available for spring planting. The vibrant, green, living vegetation growing in a winter field means the soil is covered and protected from the impacts of wind and water, holding the topsoil in place. 

While this above-ground benefit is easy to see, much of the benefit that a cover crop offers is found beneath the ground, not immediately visible to us: 

> Water Retention: Living vegetation and expansive root systems increase water infiltration and absorption by creating pores and channels within the soil profile, granting water the opportunity to soak in, like a sponge, and reduce runoff over the soil surface, directly into drainage ditches and waterways. When water is absorbed, it is conserved, and utilized by plants and other terrestrial organisms.

> Biodiversity: Typical ecosystems of the upper Midwest evolved with around 10-30 species of grasses, broadleaves, and woody species of vegetation covering the landscape. Countless species of insects, and various forms of wildlife co-evolved to develop natural ecosystems that were highly diverse and intricate. By grazing the high nutrient, protein packed forage provided during usually lean winter months enables producers to mimic mother nature and harness the positive effects of a healthy soil and ecosystem.

> Carbon Capture: Plants use sunlight and carbon dioxide to make carbon-based molecules through photosynthesis. Much of the exudates produced by plants are utilized by microorganisms within the soil. Over time, a buildup of carbon-based, humic materials increases and are gradually built into soil organic matter. These natural systems make agricultural soils a vast “sink” for carbon sequestration and contribute positively to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and climate change mitigation. 

About the Author

DEREK VER HELST
Senior Conservation Agronomist

Derek has over 15 years of experience working with landowners and corporations to design, manage, and validate research trials, maximizing short- and long-term crop outputs. With a continued passion for conservation and the natural ecosystem, he is focused on the natural symbiosis organisms have with one another in the environment. Always eager to learn, he is continuously expanding his knowledge of soil health, chemistry, and pest disease management.

Derek holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology from South Dakota State University and a master’s degree in Agronomy from Iowa State University. He is also a Certified Crop Advisor and Technical Service Provider through NRCS.

4 Considerations for Successful Farm-Level Interventions

In the private sector to date, more than 50 US-based food and agriculture companies have set rigorous greenhouse gas reduction targets – leading to a widespread focus on reducing the largest portion of their footprints: Scope 3 emissions. These include all upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions that fall outside of a company’s direct control, typically within their upstream or downstream supply chains.

As the largest source of emissions, Scope 3 also offers the greatest opportunity for reductions. For the ag and food companies we work with, farm-level interventions hold immense potential both for reductions and removals. Despite this potential, successful farm-level interventions can be complex and challenging to design and implement. Many companies have conducted supply shed hotspot analyses and even identified strategic interventions to implement – but are struggling to truly generate results on the ground.

At AgSpire, we drive success down to the ground level with a simple approach: putting the producer first. By using that as our guide, we are able to amplify and accelerate results – delivering benefit throughout the supply chain, from the farmers and ranchers on the ground, to the companies we work with, and ultimately to our environment at large.

When designing a farm-level program, here are four ways in which putting the producer first can lead to measurable progress: 

  1. Get Regional: The US EPA currently breaks ecosystem management into 12 ecoregions across the continental US – each with different climates, weather patterns, soils, water sources, and plant species. As such, growing corn in South Dakota, for example, looks very different than growing corn in Kansas. In a Scope 3 program, this may mean approaching growers in different regions with entirely customized opportunities, practices, and incentives – based on the context, markets, and ecosystems of those localities. This regional approach helps accelerate adoption and lead to better outcomes.
  2. Design for Resilience: It is imperative to remember that implementing practice changes of any kind creates financial risk for the farmer – including additional input costs or investments in new equipment or other infrastructure, for example. This risk can create challenges for program recruitment, enrollment, and even program retention. That said, designing programs that simultaneously reduce GHG emission and create on-farm benefit through a positive return on investment in the form of improved profitability, enhanced farm resilience, shrunken costs, or greater productivity go a long way to creating producer motivation and interest.
  3. Build with Empathy: Despite the credibility that comes with rigorous models, standards, protocols, and verification practices, these requirements don’t always align with how a producer runs their operation. For example, not all producers keep 3-5 years’ worth of records on file at any given time at the level needed to enter the most rigorous carbon programs. Understanding these realities and adapting program requirements helps lower barriers that might keep an interested farmer or rancher from participating or changing practices.
  4. Provide Support: On-the-ground success is dependent on helping connect producers with the right practices, programs, and incentive mix for their operation. Providing producers with technical assistance to successfully implement the practices and financial assistance needed to cover the financial burden of tackling the change can be a significant motivator for participation and on-going retention.

About the Author

ZACH PINTO
Director of Carbon & Ecosystem Service Markets

Zach promotes company strategy and client success by assisting industry groups, food and ag companies, and farmers on their sustainability goals. Zach has worked on carbon issues for stakeholders across the agriculture value chain and in a wide array of commodities, developing expertise in farm-level carbon accounting, MRV platform usage, voluntary and compliance market schemes, science-based targets, ESG reporting, and strategic planning.

Understanding Carbon Intensity Scores

Carbon intensity (CI) is simply defined as carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy. While the definition might be simple, figuring a CI score is anything but simple.

Carbon dioxide makes up the majority of greenhouse gas emissions across all industries, including the agricultural sector. Carbon Intensity Scores allow us to quantify and compare the emissions associated with producing, distributing, and consuming a product or activity. A higher score indicates a higher carbon footprint.

Ascertaining for a unit of feedstock produced and crediting the correct amount of carbon sequestered is a complex task with a high level of uncertainty. Many data points need to be measured, recorded, and verified to develop an accurate CI number. MRV platforms help assist in collecting and compiling the data necessary to calculate CI numbers efficiently and accurately.

On a farm, a CI Score accounts for all up- and downstream emissions per unit of output – including that of the practices and inputs used. In particular, scores are affected by fertilizer and chemical application types and rates, on-farm energy consumption per unit area, and yield per unit area. While each farm and system vary, the fertilizer and chemical application types and rates contribute the most to a CI score, on average.

With agriculture systems serving as the origin for so many of our products, this has huge implications for CI Scores off the farm as well. With our in-house expertise in MRV, we are helping companies better understand their carbon footprints and the right strategies to reduce or sequester emissions.

There is a growing body of evidence that shows that regenerative agriculture can have a positive impact on CI scores.

> A study published in the journal Nature found that regenerative agriculture could help to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 10 percent. Read More >>>

> Another study published in the journal Science, found that regenerative agriculture could help to improve water quality and increase biodiversity. Read More >>>

The environmental benefits of regenerative agriculture are numerous and stretch throughout the value chain.

Contact AgSpire to learn more about your Carbon Intensity Score and how to unlock the potential of regenerative agriculture, email info@agspire.com.

About the Author

DEREK VER HELST
Senior Conservation Agronomist

Derek has over 15 years of experience working with landowners and corporations to design, manage, and validate research trials, maximizing short- and long-term crop outputs. With a continued passion for conservation and the natural ecosystem, he is focused on the natural symbiosis organisms have with one another in the environment. Always eager to learn, he is continuously expanding his knowledge of soil health, chemistry, and pest disease management.

Derek holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology from South Dakota State University and a master’s degree in Agronomy from Iowa State University. He is also a Certified Crop Advisor and Technical Service Provider through NRCS.

Facilitating Landscape Change

As a trusted advisor to the ranchers we work with, my goal is to understand the ranching operation, its business goals, and the environment where it exists. With that baseline understanding, I help the ranchers find the best path to reach their goals and improve their long-term sustainability and resilience.

This spring, that work took me to a small community in the Northwest US, where I worked with several ranchers in the same geographic area. Ranging in size and approach, I worked with them to meet their goals: enhance biodiversity, improve weather resilience, conserve grazing land, and simplify operations to improve management.

Despite operations that looked and functioned very differently, each rancher was affected by a common concern around the availability of irrigation water. In this project cohort, each rancher was located within a few miles of each other, where they shared one reservoir for irrigation. The irrigation practices they used at the time were water-intensive flood tactics, contributing to the depletion of the reservoir each summer. This limited forage output – affecting the viability of their ranching operations. By coming together as a group, the ranchers were able to learn about water conservation opportunities from one another, including potential ways to upgrade their irrigation equipment.

While individual efforts make a difference, the collective impact of working in a clustered geographic area revealed the power to bring about landscape-level changes. This collaborative approach enables producers, organizations, communities, and/or governments to pool their efforts and tackle complex challenges. The cumulative effect of these endeavors leads to significant impact, especially for shared resources like water.

About the Author

MATTHEW DELBAR
Grazing and Rangeland Advisor

Matthew brings vast experience managing and restoring rangeland ecosystems and an excitement to expand his knowledge of restoration and sustainability on working landscapes. Prior to joining AgSpire, he was a rangeland management specialist at USDA-NRCS Field Office in California.

Matthew holds a bachelor’s degree in Rangeland conservation and agricultural economics from the University of Idaho. He also holds NEPA and Wildland Restoration certifications and is a certified Technical Service Provider (TSP) through NRCS in 10 states and across 6 practices.

He maintains strong ties to his family’s ranch operations in California where they raise cattle, sheep, hay, and timber.

Carbon Disclosure Laws and the Impact on US Agriculture

Earlier this month, California made history by enacting the first carbon disclosure laws in the United States. On October 7, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom signed both the Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act and the Climate-Related Financial Risk Act.

Despite being state regulations, these new laws will impact farmers and ranchers as well as food and ag companies nationwide. The laws’ requirements affect all large public and private companies doing business in California. With the size and diversity of California’s economy, the laws are estimated to impact over 5,000 entities – and their contractors and suppliers.

Mandatory climate and emission reporting begin in 2026 and 2027 – giving those impacted time to understand the requirements and their implications for their business.

The Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act

Also known as SB253, this new law requires companies doing business in California with over $1 billion in revenue to report corporate greenhouse gas emissions to the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

Of note, starting in 2027, companies must publicly report Scope 3 emissions. Scope 3 refers to indirect upstream and downstream GHG emissions that are produced within a company’s value chain. For both producers and companies, this mostly takes the form of purchased goods and services, all the way down to the farm.

All reporting must conform to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol standards and guidance. Additionally, companies must include a review by an independent third-party assurance provider.

The Climate-Related Financial Risks Act

Also known as SB 261, this accompanying law requires companies with at least $500 million in revenue that do business in California to report on their climate-related financial risks. Risk reports must be submitted to CARB starting in 2026 and must occur on a biennial basis thereafter.

Key Takeaways

Given how much of the United States economy moves through California, these two laws will heavily impact US food and agriculture, putting these industries in the spotlight with new requirements and opportunities.

For Farmers

In the short term, farmers operating in the US should not be affected by these regulations on a day-to-day basis. Both laws require Scope 3 reporting in aggregate. Individual, operation-specific carbon intensity scores would not be disclosed. In addition, errors in reporting will not be penalized, given the uncertainties associated with Scope 3 emissions. Lastly, all standards and guidance documents required by these regulations allow for estimation.

In the long term, however, farmers may notice two major changes:

> Data Gathering: Producers who participate in carbon or regenerative agriculture programs may be asked for more data and opportunities to verify practices to create a more accurate picture of farm-level emissions and impacts. Review all program contracts carefully when presented with an opportunity to earn income for generating insets or offsets of any kind to understand these requirements.

> Potential for More Opportunities: Both regulations will result in national attention on farm-level carbon footprints. As such, downstream companies could bring more opportunities to producers to generate revenue from insets and offsets. Farmers should work with advisors familiar with these programs and requirements to set goals, create improvement plans, and evaluate all options available to them.

For Food & Ag Companies

Implications for food and ag companies are much more direct. To help set up your company for success, here are three key considerations to prepare for the reporting requirements:

> Create a plan for measurement, monitoring, and verification: Evaluate options for estimating and monitoring Scope 3 emissions at the farm level. A number of models exist out there, and each has different strengths and weaknesses. A plan should be put in place to monitor emissions on an annual basis.

> Evaluate hotspots and opportunities: As Scope 3 reporting becomes routine, so too will the need to show progress. Companies can plan progress now by identifying the landscapes with the greatest emissions and the greatest opportunities for reductions and removals.

> Implement pilots: The next 3 years create a strategic runway for companies to begin testing scalable approaches to decarbonization, so that they can be activated at the landscape level when reporting is required.

Read More:

About the Author

ZACH PINTO
Director of Carbon & Ecosystem Service Markets

Zach promotes company strategy and client success by assisting industry groups, food and ag companies, and farmers on their sustainability goals. Zach has worked on carbon issues for stakeholders across the agriculture value chain and in a wide array of commodities, developing expertise in farm-level carbon accounting, MRV platform usage, voluntary and compliance market schemes, science-based targets, ESG reporting, and strategic planning.

AgSpire Launches The SustainAg Network

AgSpire unveiled our latest initiative – The SustainAg Network – which connects farmers and ranchers who are interested in conservation, sustainability, and regenerative practices with the programs and market opportunities that incentivize and reward those positive practices.

“As the implementing partner on multiple USDA Climate-Smart Commodity Grants and other grants, and with clients leading the way in launching on-the-ground sustainability projects, AgSpire is uniquely positioned to bring opportunities to producers and partner with them to deliver meaningful results for their operations and the environment,” said AgSpire CEO, Aline DeLucia.

AgSpire offers holistic, end-to-end sustainability services, to drive real progress on the land through implementation of regenerative agriculture practices. With this formalized network of producers, we will be able to accelerate adoption of practices, matching interested farmers and ranchers with opportunities that advance sustainability goals for our partners.

Enabling On-the-Ground Impact

“The producers we’ve met with are eager to invest in their land, improve their natural resources, and implement new and better management practices. The programs offered within The SustainAg Network help producers do just that – giving them the resources and technical assistance needed to succeed,” said Ryan Eichler, Director of Producer Programs at AgSpire.

In his capacity at AgSpire, Ryan is responsible for growing the reach of the network. He kicked off this effort last week at the 100th annual meeting of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, meeting with ranchers around the region. With our soft launch, more than 50 farmers and ranchers in the Northern Great Plains have already indicated their interest to join The SustainAg Network. Our team of advisors will work with those producers to learn more about their operations, providing guidance on the programs they could qualify for and that would be most beneficial on the ground.

Realizing Real Outcomes

Our initial programs are heavily focused on grazing systems, forage, specialty oilseeds, and climate-smart corn in the Great Plains and Midwest, and are expected to impact over four-million acres over the next five years. Our commitment to thoughtful program design, MMRV, and successful on-the-ground implementation results in measurable and claimable environmental outcomes, including captured and stored carbon, improved water usage and quality, enhanced biodiversity, and healthier soils.

“With the interest that The SustainAg Network has garnered through this initial launch, we are well on our way toward meeting our first-year enrollment targets for our program offerings – with many more producers looking for additional opportunities and programs to participate in,” Ryan continued.

To learn more about The SustainAg Network, our services, and how to partner with our network: