WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2015 - Many of the nation’s top agriculture, food and biofuel companies have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as the White House tries to build a case for an international climate agreement. 

Looking ahead to Paris climate talks that start Nov. 30, the White House announced commitments Monday from 81 companies, including General Mills, Hershey, Kellogg’s, Mars, McDonald’s, Monsanto, ethanol giants Abengoa and Poet, and a major California almond producer, Campos Brothers Farms. 

Several other companies on the list, including Cargill, PepsiCo and Walmart, were among 13 firms whose pledges were made public in July. 

At a meeting with business leaders that included Jeannine Grech, chief operating officer of Campos Brothers, President Obama said it was critical that the private sector be aggressive in addressing climate change. Later, White House officials urged the executives to publicize their actions. 

“If we are at the forefront of this, if we are the innovators, if we are the early adaptors, if we are the example-setters, then we’re the ones who are going to be creating and selling the products and services that help the entire world adapt to a clean-energy future,” Obama said. “If we are lagging behind, it’s not going to happen."

In addition to spelling out specific pledges to take measures such as reducing usage of fossil fuels, eliminating deforestation, and, in the case of ethanol companies, boosting production of next-generation biofuels, the companies also signed a statement calling for an international climate deal:

“We recognize that delaying action on climate change will be costly in economic and human terms, while accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy will produce multiple benefits with regard to sustainable economic growth, public health, resilience to natural disasters, and the health of the global environment.”

A number of companies also included in their commitments promises to reduce water usage, which would aid in adapting to climate change. 

Brian Deese, a special adviser to Obama, said the companies are committing to transparently account for their carbon emissions, but the pledge summaries released by the White House don’t specify how that would be done. 

The pledges of at least nine companies - Cargill, General Mills, Hershey, Kellogg, Mars, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Unilever and Walmart - include commitments to eliminate deforestation in the production of palm oil, soybeans and other commodities.  

McDonald’s and Cargill included in their pledges their support for the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, a project that was also co-founded by Elanco, Walmart and the World Wildlife Fund to reduce the environmental impact of beef production.

“When we look across our menu and the many ingredients in our kitchens, beef is iconic to our global brand and has a major footprint on the planet,” said Francesca DeBiase, McDonald’s chief supply chain and sustainability officer. 

“The beef industry delivers important economic benefits to many communities, and also has environmental impacts that must be managed responsibly.

Monsanto’s pledge includes a commitments to reduce irrigation water usage by 30 billion to 80 billion gallons a year by 2020 and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its crop protection business by 22 percent by 2020 from their 2010 levels. That cut in carbon emissions would represent a cumulative 45 percent reduction since 2002. 

Did you know Agri-Pulse subscribers get our Daily Harvest email Monday through Friday mornings, a 16-page newsletter on Wednesdays, and access to premium content on our ag and rural policy website? Sign up for your four-week free trial Agri-Pulse subscription.

Monsanto also said it would pursue cover crop research trials on over 100 Midwest locations and that it’s seed breeding would improve nutrient use efficiency and curb greenhouse gas emissions on at least 1 million acres in the United States by 2020.

Campos Brothers Farms says it has already cut its water usage and also has reduced waste by among other things using almond hulls for livestock feed and shells for livestock bedding. The company said it would reduce waste by another 25 percent and increase its use of solar power. 

Campos Brothers said it also would be involved in a new USDA-funded pilot project that the Almond Board of California and the Environmental Defense Fund are testing to help almond and corn growers greater participate in carbon markets.

Among other pledges, General Mills promised to sustainably source all of 10 key ingredients by 2020, including vanilla, cocoa, palm oil, fiber packaging, sugar cane, wheat, oats, dairy and dry milled corn. Kellogg’s said it would announce by the end of the year a carbon reduction goal that will include its agricultural supply chain.

Among the renewable energy companies, Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based Poet pledged to produce 820 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol by 2025. Poet opened its commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa, in September 2014. Poet said its cellulosic ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent when compared to gasoline. 

Other companies making commitments included Apple, Bank of America, Disney, General Electric, Intel, Johnson and Johnson, Microsoft, Nike, and Procter and Gamble.