In a big win for clean air, corn farmers in Illinois and PepsiCo have documented the ability to cut CO2 emissions, a major greenhouse gas contributor, through the adoption of cover crops and other sustainable farming practices. The partnership with PepsiCo and other large corporations across their supply chain is achieving large reductions in carbon emissions.
In the first two years of the corn checkoff-funded project, participating farmers have reduced CO2 emissions by 8,155 metric tons, equivalent to taking 1,762 cars off the road. In Illinois, Precision Conservation Management (PCM), Illinois Corn Grower Association’s premier conservation program, is working with PepsiCo to drive change at the farm level and achieve these substantial emissions reductions.
“PepsiCo is a leading example of how consumer packaged goods companies can partner with farmers to work towards their sustainability goals. PepsiCo understands that investing in farmers and helping farmers understand the financial and environmental benefits to change farm management practices is the best way to make positive climate impacts,” said Dr. Laura Gentry, director of Water Quality Science for Illinois Corn.
The project, part of PepsiCo’s efforts to help build a more sustainable food system, is also allowing Illinois Corn Marketing Board and the farmers who fund it, to leverage the value of their corn checkoff investment.
“The success of this initiative drives home the importance of local, regional and state conservation efforts,” said Rachel Orf, National Corn Growers Association’s Stewardship and Sustainability director. “The focused, farm-level strategies developed through programs like Illinois’ increase buy-in and overall success, but also provide a blueprint for agriculture and industry to expand their achievements.”
Agriculture makes up a significant portion of the carbon footprint for a global food and beverage company like PepsiCo. The company’s climate strategy related to agriculture goes hand in hand with their sustainable sourcing goals. Through PepsiCo’s Sustainable Farming Program, they promote and support practices that lead to better yields, improved soil health, lower deforestation and productivity for farmers, which also leads to GHG emission reductions.
Farmers working with PepsiCo are primarily growing cover crops where cover crops were not grown before. This farm management change impacts the soil health of the farm, reduces the usage of inputs on the farm, lessens soil erosion and nutrient runoff, creates habitat for wildlife, and – most importantly – captures carbon.
Of the 63 farmers in Illinois working with PepsiCo, 38 are growing cover crops on acres that have not grown cover crops in previous years.
“PepsiCo’s partnership and funding have made a real difference in Illinois farmers’ willingness to implement new practices, and these financial incentives allow farmers to offset some of the risks while making changes to their farm management practices,” said Travis Deppe, director of PCM. “Farming is a small family business. Farmers struggle to take on unnecessary risks without some reasonable promise of return on investment. PepsiCo is making serious investments in their sustainability goals by coming alongside farmers and rewarding the efforts of good stewards.”