Big Food Companies Commit to ‘regenerative Agriculture’ but Skepticism Remains

Will Cannon does more to sequester carbon than the average U.S. farmer.

After he harvests his corn and soybeans, he plants cover crops, which sequester carbon all winter long, on his entire 1,000-acre operation in Prairie City, Iowa. He’s avoiding tilling, or plowing, his soil as much as possible, which helps keep carbon stored in the ground.

“I’ve kind of had a passion for conservation all my life,” he says. “We’ve always been pushing the envelope on what we’re trying to do.”

Cannon is getting help to finance this climate-friendly way of farming, which costs him thousands of dollars for additional machinery and seed, from the kinds of companies that ultimately buy his product. Footing the bill in his case is PepsiCo and Unilever, which own food brands ranging from Lay’s and Gatorade to Hellman’s and Ben & Jerry’s.

This kind of cross-supply chain partnership could become increasingly common. A consortium of 12 food companies, including Mars, PepsiCo and McDonald’s, announced a plan to scale up the amount of regenerative farmland. The plan was released just days before the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) in Egypt.