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Scaling Regenerative Farming: An Action Plan

A report from the Sustainable Markets Initiative's Agribusiness Task Force

The food supply system, on which we all rely, is threatened by climate change and biodiversity loss. Regenerative farming can help us tackle the environmental impact of and on our supply chains as a critical part of our path to net zero and help to strengthen their future resilience. However, despite many companies and governments acknowledging these benefits and despite efforts to advance this approach on the ground, regenerative farming is not scaling fast enough to address the challenges we face. The rate of growth needs to triple to reach 40% of global cropland by 2030 and deliver against the world’s need to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees.

Why is it not scaling faster?

At the request of the Sustainable Markets Initiative, we formed a Task Force to answer this question and to identify what we, the private sector, can do about it. This Action Plan is the result of a year of collaborative work among Task Force members, other companies, stakeholders and, most critically, farmers. Building on the progress of other initiatives, we’ve used three food value chains as case studies from which to identify the reasons for the slow adoption and to develop actions the private sector can take to accelerate it.

Farmers, large or small, farm the way they do as a result of the market dynamics we have created through the food system. Right now, those dynamics favour current farming methods but, as leaders of companies that play a key role in the system, we can make changes that mean farmers can - and will want to - farm in a more sustainable way. We have therefore chosen to focus on what we, the private sector actors in the value chain, need to do ourselves to make regenerative farming a ‘no- brainer’ for the farmer and support and enable them to transition to and sustain this new system over the long term.

With the inflationary environment and widespread supply chain disruption, it would be easy to reduce our focus on the longer-term challenge of scaling regenerative farming. But we believe it’s vital we maintain a sense of urgency. We must take action now to avoid more acute crises in the future.

One of the issues slowing progress is that regenerative farming is not an exact science; we don’t have all the answers. But we know enough to be clear that it’s the right direction of travel and we see emerging proof points that give us confidence in our ability to speed up its implementation.

There are parallels with how commitments to net zero have unfolded: discussions in boardrooms about the cost of action have now moved to an acceptance of the cost of inaction and a willingness to move in the right direction. We in the global food system must similarly ensure we don’t give up on progress because we are waiting for perfection.

Scaling Regenerative Farming: An Action Plan

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