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New Carbon Offset Program Aims to Help Produce Farmers Sell Carbon Credits

One of the world’s best defenses against climate change can be found in the world’s cropland, which has the potential to sequester as much as 570 million metric tons of carbon a year, according to a 2021 New York Times article. Using cropland to store greenhouse gas emissions is critical to avoiding climate change’s worst effects. 

One way to help ensure more of that carbon is sequestered is through carbon offsets, which are used to cancel carbon emissions in one place by reducing emissions in another.

When a company or individual has succeeded in offsetting their carbon emissions, they can sell carbon credits to buyers.

Photo Courtesy producepay

A new partnership between ProducePay and Allcot aims to bring more farmers into the market by creating a carbon offset program developed specifically for growers of primary crops. The idea is to give growers the tools and expertise to participate in the voluntary carbon market, which could reach an estimated $50 billion by 2030.

The partnership was announced in July. ProducePay is a Los Angeles-based digital marketplace that connects produce farmers with retailers, while Allcot provides tools to manage greenhouse gas emissions and operates from offices around the world. 

The program is expected to work much like other voluntary carbon offset and credit programs, ProducePay Founder and CEO Pablo Borquez Schwarzbeck said in an interview with AFN (formerly AgFunderNews). Farmers typically generate carbon credits by adopting eco-friendly or regenerative agriculture practices that sequester carbon. When a carbon credit is generated, it enters a market where buyers can purchase it to offset their own emissions.

Photo Courtesy Allcot

The ProducePay/Allcot program will focus on crops such as asparagus, grapes, and strawberries. The feasibility study found that these growers already had sustainable agricultural practices in place to sell verifiable carbon offsets. Allcot’s role will ensure the program meets international standards governing carbon verification.

The carbon offset program represents the first component of ProducePay’s Sustainably Source initiative, which was launched to establish an efficient, profitable, and sustainable fresh produce ecosystem. 

Photo Courtesy ProducePay

“Too often produce growers are left behind when it comes to innovation and modernization in the agricultural industry,” Borquez Schwarzbeck said in a press release. “These growers are sitting on a lucrative opportunity to make thousands, if not millions, of dollars in residual income that will not only help the world mitigate climate change but also create a more resilient future for them—as these growers are often the most impacted by climate change. We want to empower produce farmers to be on the frontlines of carbon markets, not on the sidelines.” 

As GreenBiz reported, many farmers, climate activists, and businesses have embraced the idea of selling carbon credits and offsets to fund regenerative agriculture. So far, much of this work has been backed by large consumer-packaged goods companies such as General Mills, Danone, and Kellogg. The produce sector needs to catch up because of the difficult work involved. 

“If you want to launch a carbon credit program, it makes sense to apply it on corn, soybean, and wheat because those are millions of hectares farmers have,” Guillermo Carvajal, ProducePay’s vice president of sustainability, told GreenBiz. “When you go to produce you have more disseminated growers and crops, and that’s challenging for carbon crediting, but it’s also a huge opportunity for the industry.”

Photo Courtesy ProducePay

Creating carbon credits for produce growers requires a more nuanced approach than for the big grain, corn, and soy crops, he said. When a farm grows various fruits and vegetables, it needs to adopt crop-specific regenerative practices that make it harder to increase its scale with carbon credits.

ProducePay’s answer is to use weekly check-ins to help farmers design their fields correctly. Meanwhile, Allcot has created a carbon crediting program for frequent crop rotations.  

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