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The people behind regenerative ag

Sponsored: ADM and its partners across the supply chain are working together to expand the adoption of regenerative agriculture practices.

A panel of speakers at GreenBiz 24

Image courtesy of ADM.

This article is sponsored by ADM.

Two years ago, ADM and PepsiCo signed an unprecedented 7.5-year agreement to reach up to 2 million regenerative agriculture acres by 2030. This was a reflection of the two companies’ commitment to enhancing the sustainability of food and agriculture value chains and reducing Scope 3 emissions. It also acknowledged regenerative agriculture practices as critical to achieving their goals.

That partnership is already showing strong results. In 2023, nearly 500 farmers enrolled, encompassing 500,000 acres and 66 million bushels of corn, soybeans and wheat. Higher productivity was shown in enrolled acres versus weighted state benchmarks across all three commodities, and more than 115,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent were sequestered across more than 230,000 cover crop acres, which is equivalent to removing almost 26,000 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles from the road for a year.

This impact is a result of two companies, as well as critical supply chain partners including the farmers who understand the importance of regenerative agriculture to their businesses and legacies, and local implementation assistance partners, working together to help guide practices tailored to each farm.

Last month, on the stage of GreenBiz 24, I was proud to join multiple supply chain partners — including PepsiCo and Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, as well as two farmers, Mark Isbell and Keith White — to discuss the importance of working together to expand adoption of regenerative agriculture practices … and how we need to engage our entire value chain to change our future.

Speakers on a panel sitting on stools at the front of a room speaking

From left to right: Heather Clancy of GreenBiz, Jim Andrew of PepsiCo, Michelle French of ADM, Mark Isbell of Isbell Farms, Keith White of KWB Farms and Ag Services, and Scott Herndon of Field to Market participated in a panel discussing regenerative agriculture.

 

It starts on the farm

As a fourth-generation producer and board member of the National Black Growers Council, Keith White farms more than 1,200 acres of soybeans, corn, wheat and peas in Mississippi and Tennessee. He is increasingly using regenerative agriculture practices and understands the importance of collaboration between growers, producers, supply chain managers and processors, and consumer packaged goods companies to help ensure the success of the regenerative agriculture supply chain. 

"What you’re looking at up here is a village," White said, in reference to his GreenBiz panelists.

ADM’s approach to regenerative agriculture starts on the farm, by supporting the growers who know their land better than anyone else — growers such as White. In many cases, the farmers we work with were already engaging in sustainable practices. We help enhance and advance that work, while ensuring that farmers see the value their commitment to regenerative agriculture is delivering. 

Our approach to collaboration begins with connecting farmers to technical assistance partners with localized expertise to discuss and provide education about practices best suited to each farm operation. Then we provide access to cutting-edge technology to assist farmers with data entry analytics, which are needed to quantify key metrics. 

Every farm is different. Simple, secure data collection paired with farm-specific agronomy discussions significantly helps farmers in identifying and implementing tailored field-level practices. These efforts often improve yields and the overall health of farmland — while providing ADM and supply chain partners with quantitative measures to better understand the impact of regenerative agriculture. ADM also provides growers with financial incentives to support their adoption of regenerative practices, offering flexible approaches based on either practices or outcomes.

At GreenBiz 24, White discussed how growers benefit from enrolling in regenerative agriculture programs.  

"Technical assistance really helps," White said. "These organizations really support farmers. It's really a big help. A lot of people don’t understand why we use cover crops, but cover crops have done some really good things for a couple of my farms."

Implementation assistance

Third-party implementation assistance partners are critical to advancing regenerative agriculture. These partners provide a broad range of essential support to growers — including education and resources on regenerative agriculture and data collection assistance. In the United States, farmers in ADM’s regenerative agriculture programs use the Farmers Business Network Gradable digital platform for data collection and metrics calculation. This suite of farm management tools enables the secure collection and aggregation of data, while expediting calculation and analysis of results via Field to Market’s Fieldprint Calculator, which can measure and report on a broad range of outcomes, such as biodiversity and water quality. 

"The goal is to ensure that farmers understand the changes they’re making to their farm and operations, and how those changes are playing out," Scott Herndon, president of Field to Market, said at GreenBiz. "We want the data collection and aggregation processes to be secure, private and efficient — while leading to digestible metrics that quantify the impact of regenerative agriculture." 

With rigorous and comprehensive data collection and analysis, we and our partners can measure the impact of regenerative agriculture practices. For example, in 2022, across North America, we determined that the acres enrolled in ADM regenerative agriculture programs emitted 253,000 MT less carbon emissions than the benchmark. Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s COMET Planner, participating acres sequestered 115,500 MT of carbon dioxide in 2022. Together, these numbers are equivalent to removing over 80,000 cars from the road for a year. 

Bringing it all together

Partnership across the value chain is something Jim Andrew, executive vice president and chief sustainability officer at PepsiCo, knows is critical.

"If we’re going to keep farmers farming and help the land produce what it needs for 8 [billion] to 10 billion people, we need a healthy ecosystem," Andrew said. "We’re always looking for partners — we can’t do it by ourselves. Differences are what create durable, sustainable partnerships. Sustainability is a team sport. It requires a full team."

The need for partnership is still here, and we’re seeing the benefits working together can deliver to businesses, people and the planet. Last year, ADM published research showing that regenerative agriculture can boost perceptions and purchase consideration among consumers, and that retailers and CPGs are looking for partners to help them meet this demand. And with global scale, and a value chain stretching from the farm gate to the store aisle, ADM has a unique opportunity to help bring those partners together and lead the development and implementation of sustainable solutions. 

We’re proud to engage partners up and down the value chain, and from what I heard at GreenBiz — from Keith White, from Scott Herndon, from Jim Andrew, from Mark Isbell and from the audience who participated in a great conversation — it was clear that participants at every step of that chain know the value of continued collaboration. When we all work together, we’re all better equipped to make a difference in shaping a brighter future.

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