Organic Valley recently launched a new program to help the co-op's farmers adjust their practices and reduce their carbon footprints. The goal is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 without purchasing carbon offsets.
"Carbon offsetting occurs when a company purchases carbon credits from a broker and 'applies' the credits to their own carbon footprint," says Nicole Rakobitsch, director of sustainability for the organic co-op. "Carbon insetting is the practice of investing in reducing or removing emissions within a company's own supply chain. Insets are more transparent and credible than offsets because the reductions are directly related to the business's operations."
The CCIP, or CROPP Carbon Insetting Program, is designed to help Organic Valley reach carbon neutrality through real-world, deep emission reductions and carbon sequestration on member farms. Plus, the program will assist Organic Valley farmers with implementing regenerative, climate-smart farming practices.
Organic Valley's goal is to create 50 pilot projects on small, organic family farms within the first year of the program. Farmers who belong to the co-op will encouraged to join and offered monetary payments based on the predicted carbon benefit of their practices. However, participating farmers reap benefits of their own such as access to the science and data Organic Valley plans to collect over time, as well as cost savings, shade for cows, time and labor savings, aesthetic beauty and farmer wellbeing. Participation is entirely voluntary, and the cooperative hopes to have farmer-members participate all over the US.
Practices being considered for the 2022 CCIP pilot include tree plantings, compost applications, improved manure management, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and enhanced grazing and cropland practices.
Organic Valley staff and the technical service providers who are partners in the program will work together to ensure the practices have been implemented and measure any resulting carbon reduction. Specifically, in terms of carbon sequestration, they will be measuring both below ground soil carbon as well as above ground carbon (found in woody biomass in trees and shrubs) over time.
"We aim to become the first major dairy brand to reduce farm emissions without relying on carbon offsets," says Rakobitsch. "While the practice of insetting is not as widely practiced as offsetting, it is quickly gaining traction as more companies recognize the importance of strengthening the resiliency of their direct supply chains. For Organic Valley, that means investing in our member-farms."