Bayer will begin paying farmers for carbon-conserving practices under a new program being rolled out this fall.

The company announced Tuesday that its Carbon Initiative will initially include about 500 farmers in Brazil and 700 in the U.S., and will involve “rewarding” those farmers “for generating carbon credits by adopting climate-smart practices — such as no-till farming and the use of cover crops — designed to help agriculture reduce its carbon footprint and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

Bayer said its initiative “is the result of years of work validating a science-based approach and methodology” and is the latest action taken by the company to meet “sustainability commitments specifically aimed at reducing field GHG emission by 30% in 2030.”

“Farmers are passionate environmentalists and stewards of the lands they farm,” said Brett Begemann, chief operating officer of Bayer’s Crop Science division. “If anyone has a vested interest in battling climate change, it’s farmers, and we are committed to developing new business models like this unique Carbon Initiative to help them in that fight.”

Government, industry and nongovernmental organizations all have been placing more emphasis in recent years on the use of soil, specifically in agriculture, in the fight against climate change.

Last year, Indigo launched its Terraton initiative, designed to sequester 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into soils. The company planned to pay farmers $15-20/ton of carbon sequestered for using practices like no-till and planting cover crops.

Syngenta recently announced plans to invest $2 billion in sustainable agriculture by 2025, which includes working toward carbon-neutral agriculture.

House Democrats have proposed a bill that includes conservation incentives to keep carbon in the soil. And Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden released an environmental plan that pledges financial assistance to farmers who adopt climate-friendly farming practices.

“Incentivizing farmers to embrace no-till, precision nitrogen use or cover crops helps further sequester carbon into the soil, reduce fossil fuel usage and reduce greenhouse gases,” Bayer said. “While today farmers get rewarded solely for their food, feed and fiber production, those participating in the Bayer Carbon Initiative will have the opportunity to be rewarded for their best farm management practices and other sustainability efforts as well.”

The initial, 2020-21 season will see U.S. and Brazilian farmers receiving help to implement climate-smart agricultural practices. “Bayer will acquire the carbon removals created by those practices at transparent prices,” the company said. “The company is also collaborating with partners such as Embrapa in Brazil to build a viable carbon market for farmers.”

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Bayer plans to expand the program in the U.S. and Brazil, and move into other parts of the world “with tailored approaches that will allow growers to choose what climate-smart practices and implementation works best for them.”

Growers enrolled in the initiative will receive compensation at a flat rate per acre enrolled in the program. A grower can enroll as little as 10 acres or as many eligible acres in the program as they wish and they are compensated by the acre, not by the estimated amount of carbon sequestered.  To receive their compensation, growers will use their existing Bayer PLUS Rewards account (or create one if they aren’t already enrolled) and will be able to redeem their rewards for cash. Further details on the structure will be made available soon, a company spokesperson told Agri-Pulse.

In Europe, it plans to explore how its approach “could be adapted as part of the European Green Deal. In Asia-Pacific, our goal is to help increase productivity for smallholder farmers as well as reduce methane emissions from rice farming.” 

“We know that growers in the U.S. are not only good stewards of their land, but also shrewd businessmen, too,” said Lisa Safarian, President of Bayer Crop Science, North America. “That’s why this initiative is so exciting — enabling farmers to realize additional financial benefit from carbon-smart farming practices such as the use of cover crops or no-till agriculture.”

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