Companies’ Climate Promises Face a Wild Card: Farmers

Companies like PepsiCo, Cargill, Walmart, and General Mills are trying to convince farmers like Mr. Gaesser to adopt new climate-friendly agricultural techniques through a variety of financial incentives and programs. They have good reason. Together, these companies have pledged that at least 70 million acres, or roughly 18 percent of the nation’s total cropland, an area about the size of Nevada, will be operated using regenerative agriculture techniques by 2030.

Through photosynthesis, plants — whether corn or trees — convert carbon dioxide from the air into energy that is stored in the soil. Regenerative farming techniques, such as planting a cover crop during the fall, allows that process to continue throughout the winter months when the soil would normally be bare.

But there are several complicating factors.