Global commodities trader Cargill announced it is launching a carbon farming program for the 2022 season that will pay growers for production practices that lower emissions and capture more climate-warming carbon in soils.
Cargill's RegenConnect program will use soil sampling, farm data and remote sensing to estimate the environmental benefit of practices like planting cover crops or not tilling soils, then pay growers $20 for every ton of the carbon sequestered.
The project is among a growing number of climate-focused programs launched by agriculture companies looking to reduce their carbon footprints or to cash in on carbon trading.
Critics have decried some schemes as greenwashing by polluting corporations and questioned the permanence of carbon captured by intensive row crop farming.
Cargill has been signing up farmers for the RegenConnect program for several months and expects to pay participants 50% of their projected annual payout this December, said Ben Fargher, vice president of sustainability for Cargill's North American agricultural supply chain.
The remainder will be paid later in the 2022 crop season.
Farm data will be gathered and verified by carbon measurement firm Regrow.
Cargill already has other, mostly regional environmental programs underway, but views RegenConnect at a "headline program" that it hopes to scale up in coming seasons, Fargher said.
The company aims to have 10 million acres (4 million hectares) enrolled in sustainable and regenerative farming programs by 2030 as its customers, from raw commodities importers and livestock producers to food and consumer goods companies, are also looking to cut their carbon footprints.
"The focus of this program is to contribute to our corporate commitment of 10 million acres and to meet the expectations of our CPG customers," Fargher said.
Cargill did not disclose the number of acres currently enrolled in RegenConnect.