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Big agriculture task forces issues stark warning ahead of COP27

Representatives from 'Big Agriculture' including Bayer, HowGood, Indigo Agriculture, Mars, McCain Foods, McDonald’s, Mondelez, Olam, PepsiCo, and more issued a stark warning ahead of the COP27 climate summit in Egypt, contending that the agricultural sector needs to at least "triple the speed of progress" to avoid "destroying the planet" in a November 3 report.

Highlights of the report and an outline for the solution include the following:

  • The Agribusiness Task Force, part of the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI), today released its action plan focused on how to scale regenerative farming – an approach which aims to cut carbon emissions whilst seeking to promote and improve soil health and biodiversity.

  • The report — produced by the 12-strong cross-industry Task Force - highlights an urgent need for consistent metrics, better government policy incentives and a transformation of sourcing to spread the cost of transition to more sustainable practices.

  • It comes after new analysis by sustainability analysts Systemiq revealed regenerative farming is growing but the rate must triple to deliver against the planet’s need to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees.

  • Task Force Chair Grant Reid, outgoing Mars CEO, said the rate of progress was ‘far too slow’ and he hoped the report would inspire the sector to help make the economics of regenerative farming work for farmers.

The SMI Agribusiness Task Force’s report “Scaling Regenerative Farming: an action plan” warns that adoption rates are currently lagging far behind the rate needed to effectively tackle climate change. Fresh analysis by Systemiq has revealed that regenerative farming – whilst expanding its footprint over recent years – must triple its rate of growth to deliver against the world’s need to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees. It needs to make up at least 40% of global cropland by 2030, up from around 15% today.

The Task Force calls for common metrics and market-based financial incentives for environmental outcomes, targeted government policy and an overhaul of food sourcing – all to make regenerative agriculture a ‘no brainer’ business decision for farmers. The group is comprised of executives from many of the world’s largest and most influential agribusiness companies and organizations, united by a common ambition to enable regenerative farming to become mainstream: Bayer, HowGood, Indigo Agriculture, Mars, McCain Foods, McDonald’s, Mondelez, Olam, PepsiCo, Sustainable Food Trust, Waitrose & Partners and Yara International.

Task Force Chair & outgoing Mars CEO, Grant Reid said: “These are unprecedented times with supply chains under enormous pressure and the impacts of climate change all too real. Regenerative farming is a critical part of the solution, and our report shows all too clearly that – despite pockets of great work – adoption rates are far too slow as the short-term economic case for change is not compelling enough for farmers.

“As an industry, we need to address these areas with urgency if we are to hit our net zero commitments and protect against future supply-chain disruption.”

Regenerative farming is an approach that aims to build soil health and fertility, sequester carbon and reduce emissions, enhance watershed quality and increase biodiversity while also improving farmer livelihoods and resilience.

The Task Force focused its work on three specific value chains (wheat in the US, basmati rice in India and potatoes in the UK) with a view to identifying learnings that could be scaled to other crops and geographies with similar characteristics. It details five key areas which it believes require urgent action to make the economics of regenerative farming more appealing to farmers. These are:

  1. Agree common metrics for environmental outcomes

  2. Build farmers’ income from environmental outcomes such as carbon reduction and removal

  3. Create mechanisms to share the cost of transition with farmers

  4. Ensure government policy enables and rewards farmers for transition

  5. Develop new sourcing models to spread the cost of transition

The Task Force is set to continue its work into 2023 to drive the implementation of the report’s Big 5 recommendations. Further discussions with key stakeholders will take place next week at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh.

Launched at The World Economic Forum 2020 Annual Meeting in Davos, and under the mandate of the Terra Carta, the Sustainable Markets Initiative's mission is to build a coordinated global effort to enable the private sector to accelerate the transition to a sustainable future.

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