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Farmer’s Daughter: Monsanto’s private-sector collaborative invests in climate control and farming’s future


It takes a lot of things to produce the world’s food supply. Labor, science, expertise, time, and passion, just to name a few.

Of course, the environment also plays a major role.

Soil health and water quality are important, but so too is the weather. Naturally, the climate has to be right for the specific crops grown in any particular region — there is a reason we don’t grow bananas in Michigan! On our farm, we have experienced what happens when drought conditions decimate our crops, frost comes too early, or there is too much rainfall. Climate matters.

That is precisely why Monsanto is working to reduce the company’s impact on climate change.

One year ago this month, Monsanto made a commitment to make its operation carbon neutral through its own operations and collaborations with farmers. The initial effort by the company meant to focus on seed production, crop protection, and sharing of data and best practices. At the time, a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated that reducing carbon emissions from agriculture could go a long way to reduce greenhouse gases overall.

A year later, in further effort of those goals, the company announced the formation of the Carbon-Neutral Collaborative, whose members will serve as advisors to Monsanto to reach its goal of being carbon neutral by 2021. These advisors will also come up with a way to accurately measure greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, and report how those emissions are reduced through particular practices. The Collaborative consists of industry experts on the topic of greenhouse gases and agriculture. Leaders in this endeavor include Colorado State University, Kansas State University, National Corn Growers Association, The Soil Health Partnership, and Climate Smart Group Inc.

Regardless of your personal thoughts on man-made climate change — super concerned, skeptical, or denier — we should all agree this is the appropriate approach to handling the problem. So far, many government efforts at reducing our carbon footprint have simply been a hindrance for economic growth and activity. Taxing the use of carbon-centric energy does not necessarily mean that people can or will stop their activities, just that they will have less money going into the economy for other pursuits. Ultimately, that hurts the economy and innovations that might actually address the problem of climate change.

But instead of relying on government mandates and regulations, Monsanto has found a way to deal with carbon emissions as an integral part of their business in a collaborative fashion. Instead of suppressing economic activity, such as with carbon emission credits, the approach uses innovation, science, and technology to make carbon sequestration an easy and natural practice to adopt.

For example, the ICF International concluded in a report published in June of 2016 that more than 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions could be reduced in the United States alone with the widespread adoption of certain agricultural production methods. Those methods include cover crops, conservation tillage, and precision nutrient management. These are measures that farmers are already adopting on a wide-scale basis because it makes sense. These practices improve soil health, increase yields, and protect water quality. The fact that they also have beneficial reductions in agriculture’s contribution to climate change is just icing on the cake.

As part of Monsanto’s original announcement, Tim Smith, an Iowa farmer stated: “My goal is long-term sustainability — raising crops as sustainably and environmentally friendly as I can…. As a farmer and steward of the land, it is encouraging to know that implementing these practices on my farm can be an important contribution in addressing climate change.”

That’s why a program like this has such a high chance at succeeding. Farmers care about the environment and want to protect it — that is the only way we will stay in business and continue making money. Monsanto’s efforts give farmers the opportunity to address current environmental concerns that benefit farmers now, such as soil health and clean water, while at the same time addressing bigger challenges, such as climate change. Because it is accomplished in a way that allows for continued economic and business growth, it has long-term sustainability. This private-sector approach is a perfect example of how we can tackle some of the more pressing issues in our world.

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