February 15, 2021
United Soybean Board supports study on sustainable agricultural tech investment
The United Soybean Board (USB) in the United States has endorsed a multi-organisational initiative - which it is a funding partner of - to connect private sector capital investors with innovative climate-smart, soil-centric agricultural technologies.
US farmers are leaders when it comes to using leading-edge technologies and best management practices to improve soil health while also increasing economic and environmental sustainability, USB said. By scaling up climate-smart agriculture, US agriculture could reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than half by 2025, from 9.9% to 3.8%, and ultimately be a carbon sink by 2035 at -4% of total US GHG emissions by 2035.
US Farmers & Ranchers in Action (USFRA) partnered with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, The Mixing Bowl and Croatan Institute to release a report that analyses the state of emerging soil health technology and the need for climate-smart technologies to be commercialised with partnership funding from private sector capital investors.
"US agriculture has the potential to be the first net negative greenhouse gas emissions sector in our economy," said Lynn Rohrscheib, USB farmer-leader and USFRA board member. "Reaching that goal is important to me because sustainability's connection to improving soil health translates into long-term viability for my farm and the next generation."
Providing economic context, the report included an in-depth analysis of the US$972 billion in annual capital that flows from asset owners through asset classes and financial intermediaries to participants in the US agricultural value chain. The report revealed the primary funding sources include institutional investors (approximately US$600 billion), retail investors (approximately US$360 billion) and US government via federal/state payments and incentives (approximately US$20 billion).
Beyond investment, leveraging technology to accelerate and scale on-farm adoption of climate-smart agriculture encompasses several action steps that align with USB's sustainability goals. This ranges from supporting the development of tools that collect on-farm data to exchanging best practice know-how and data related to soil health, yield and profitability. The report outlines these action steps as a vital linchpin to unlock the full potential of soils.
"It is critical the financial community partners with farmers and ranchers to help the US achieve a transitional net-zero economy," said USFRA CEO Erin Fitzgerald. "Farmers and ranchers and the sector need investment over the next decade to realise the potential of agricultural soils as a natural climate solution."
Climate-smart agriculture is a suite of practices that increases productivity and income, enhances resiliency and adaptive capacity and reduces GHG emissions. Overall, the USFRA report focuses on six established farming and ranching practices, spanning: No-till/reduced tillage with retained residues; cover crops; crop rotation; compost application; managed grazing; and integrated crop and livestock systems.
The soy checkoff's sustainability goals intrinsically align with the six practices outlined in the USFRA report. From reducing land use impact by 10%, greenhouse gas emissions by 10% and soil erosion by 25%, while increasing energy use efficiency by 10%, US soybean farmers can use sustainable farming practices to reduce their environmental footprint.
"This report reinforces the value of what can be achieved through sustainable farming practices and the momentum possible through investments in technology to enable US soybean farmers to become carbon-negative," said Mace Thornton, USB vice president of communications and marketing strategy and USFRA Communications Council chair. "Partnerships for investments are critical to forge the widespread integration of these climate-smart agricultural technologies."
The release of the investment report is one step and an essential pathway in the process of mapping soil carbon sequestration targets, the USB said.
USFRA will bring together representatives from each of the participating organisations, companies and investment partners to co-create action plans and funding/investment streams to continue moving the initiative forward.
In addition to USB, the research was funded by Wells Fargo & Company.