Why Should We Fix our Emissions if China Won't?
The I'm on a Boat (28th) Edition of the Negative Foods Newsletter
Imagine sitting at one end of a small boat while another person sits at the other end. There are two slow leaking holes, one at your feet and one at the feet of the other person. With some effort, the holes can be repaired in time to avert sinking.
Max Teplitski, the Chief Science Officer of the Produce Marketing Association, recently shared with me a topic he hears repeatedly related to climate mitigation: “Why should we incur costs to our detriment when China isn’t, and sells their products cheaply instead?”
Another great question!
Let’s consider two pressures facing America’s farms related to climate:
America’s farmers already know that climate change is harming them. Severe droughts, floods and wildfires - made worse by climate change - are here and are disrupting farm production.
Retailers are shunning food supply chains vulnerable to climate change disruption. For example, major U.S. retailers are shifting their salad supply chain from the Salinas incumbents to indoor grown upstarts, at least in material part because of improved surety of supply in the face of increasing climate volatility.*
How should farmers respond to those pressures? What if they only consider their own interests? Farming with regenerative practices is better for climate. But farming with regenerative practices is better for farmers even if we put aside the climate benefits:
More Resilient. Land farmed with regenerative practices stores more carbon in the soil, better holds the soil in place, and stores more water. This makes regenerative supply chains more resilient, which will enable farmers with regenerative practices to better respond to the pressures from climate change.
Reduce Input Costs. Farming regeneratively can lower input costs, which means that a farm with regenerative practices can enjoy a profit advantage (or win with lower prices).
Higher Prices. As we see with higher organic prices, consumers will pay more for food they perceive to be better for the environment. Produce companies with regeneratively grown food may therefore be able to command higher prices.
Win Market Share with Nutrition. Regeneratively produced food is more nutritious. Consumers seek food they perceive to be more nutritious, so regeneratively produced food can use this competitive advantage to gain market share.
Gain a First Mover Advantage. Tesla is beating the competition in EVs partly because they enjoy a first mover advantage. As market demand continues to rise for Negative Foods, the first movers will gain material competitive advantages, and U.S. farmers will be well positioned if they take the leap early.
Doing Good Helps Businesses Do Well. Companies that conduct their business with a social purpose more successfully attract and retain better workforces. These companies are more attractive to consumers and enjoy lower costs of capital. Adopting climate friendly practices will make a business better regardless of the impact on the climate.
You can ignore the climate benefits and still benefit from adopting regenerative practices.
But trust me that waking up early and working to reverse climate change is a great way to feel great!
Two other questions to ask:
Do we really think China intends to send the world to hell? We already see that the growing middle class in China is demanding higher standards of living (which include better environmental conditions). Do the Russians love their children too?
Is the country that has emitted the most carbon burdened with the most responsibility?
Now back to the boat. It isn’t really two people and two holes, of course, but many people and many holes. What factors should you consider for how much effort to devote to repairing your hole?
What happens to the boat if you don’t repair your hole? What happens to you?
What if 50% of the people repaired their holes? What about 75%?
Are the other people more or less likely to repair their holes if you repair your hole?
What should you do with the hole at your feet?
* Disclosure: As the founder of BrightFarms, I’ve got a horse in the salad race.
Russ Conser (Chief Executive & Impact Officer, Blue Nest Beef): “Our analysis suggests that at scale, we can indeed produce beef at what we call “feedlot parity.” But just like EV’s the trick is getting to scale. Thus the need to grow a demand curve that can get us there – just like EV’s as you note. Car & Driver may have missed that, but some of us didn’t. Just have to think like an innovator and entrepreneur.”
Renée Vassilos of the Nature Conservancy: “Two additional studies re evidence that regenerative practices make farm enterprises more resilient (and therefore profitable) in the face of drought and extreme water events.
From Yale: Soil organic matter protects US maize yields and lowers crop insurance payouts under drought.
From Dagan (now Regrow) and TNC: Initial indications that conservation practices can mitigate farmland susceptibility to flooding.”
For Your Consideration:
AgTech ... So What Podcast: Investing in Tech to Enable Regen Ag (Featuring Paul Lightfoot, Sarah Nolet, Mark Lewis and Renée Vassilos)
True Grace and Rodale Institute Partner to Advance Research on Regenerative Organic Agriculture
Unilever-owned Knorr outlines plans to start 50 regenerative agriculture projects within five years
Indigo Ag acquires Soil Metrics to boost carbon MRV capabilities
Maximizing ROI for CPGs Looking to Get Ahead with Carbon Labeling — HowGood
In reconciliation, climate-smart agriculture and forestry is the way forward
To fight the climate crisis, banks must stop financing factory farming
Climate impacts and adaptation in US dairy systems 1981–2018
There’s No Cheap Way to Deal With the Climate Crisis
To Slow Climate Change, We Must Reimagine What It Means to Eat Like an American
Meat is dead, long live meat: Can beef and dairy contribute to a climate fix?
Kernza: The Perennial Grain With the Potential to Change Agriculture Forever
New report identifies poor soil health as national security threat
Shenandoah Growers rebrands as Soli Organic with $120m to build more soil-based indoor farms
ANALYSIS: ASSESSING SWEETGREEN’S UNIQUE BUSINESS MODEL, AHEAD OF IPO
Salesforce Billionaire Marc Benioff Pledges $200 Million For Reforestation, Climate Entrepreneurs
The views in this newsletter belong solely to Paul Lightfoot (and not to BrightFarms or other organizations). This newsletter accepts no advertising. Learn more about this newsletter at https://paullightfoot.substack.com/about.