Regeneration 2022: Requiem or Revival?

“Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.” – Vandana Shiva, Regeneration International Co-Founder.

In September 2014, at the massive Climate March in New York City, a small but determined band of organic food, farm, natural health, and climate activists marched in the streets and held a press conference at the Rodale Institute in Manhattan, where we announced the formation of a new global network: Regeneration International (RI).

The ambitious goal of Regeneration International is to “change the global conversation” on food, farming, and climate. Our strategy is to inspire and mobilize the global grassroots with the revolutionary message that the climate crisis can be solved, in fact, that global warming and its collateral damage to public health, the environment, biodiversity, and economic livelihoods, can actually be reversed through a global scaling up of organic and regenerative best practices in combination with a transition to renewable energy.

RI’s world-changing vision, then and now, is based upon the actual best practices (and potential for expansion) of organic and regenerative farmers, ranchers, land, forest, and marine stewards across the globe. The Regeneration Movement believes that a powerful combination of renewable energy and conservation, supercharged with a regenerative transformation of our food, farming, and land-use practices, is the best and actually the only way to solve our Climate Emergency.

Regenerating Politics

We believe that a global awakening and Grassroots Rising, https://www.organicconsumers.org/blog/roadmap-to-regeneration-in-the-united-states-2020-2030

based upon the principles and practices of regenerative food, farming, and land-use, has the awesome potential to inspire and provoke a multi-partisan, multinational, populist Movement—Democrat, Independent, and Republican; liberal, radical, conservative, and libertarian; rancher, farmer, and indigenous; urban and rural; consumer and farmer; North and South.

Once established, a new multi-partisan, transnational united front will have the power to “make the polluters pay” and stimulate a massive transfer (divestment) of government and private capital away from degenerative practices (unhealthy, highly-processed food, factory farms, GMO seeds, chemical and energy-intensive agriculture, soil and environmental degradation, and rampant deforestation) to regenerative practices instead.

Instead of destroying the Earth, undermining public health, and impoverishing rural communities with “business and politics as usual,” we must instead embark on a local-to-global transformation. We must identify best practices and free up the funds to scale these best practices up to critical mass.

A Regeneration Revolution will require us to revitalize and re-carbonize our soils and vegetation; rehydrate our deserts and semi-arid lands; https://www.organicconsumers.org/blog/agave-power-greening-desert rejuvenate our forests; nurture soil fertility; stop erosion; recharge our ground water and aquifers; restore our wildlife and pollinizer habitats; and preserve and restore our marine eco-systems.

This Great Regeneration, alongside a renewable energy revolution, will re-stabilize the climate by reducing greenhouse gas pollution and drawing down excess CO2 (currently 419 ppm) from the atmosphere, returning this excess carbon to where it belongs, in our soils and landscapes, utilizing the miraculous power of human stewardship, animal husbandry, and natural photosynthesis.

This regeneration of our lands and environment, in turn, will help us restore our natural immune systems and revitalize public health (both physical and mental), bring together our fractured body politic, restore rural economic livelihoods, create jobs, and reduce the economic pressures that bring about forced migration.

State of the Regeneration Movement

Seven years after the New York City Climate March, the Regeneration Movement has succeeded, to some extent, in changing the conversation surrounding food, farming, and climate, but we have utterly failed to build a multi-partisan, multi-national Movement strong enough to change public policy and private investment.  Atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping CO2 reached a disturbing 397 parts per million in 2014, when RI was founded, and have since climbed to an alarming 419 ppm.

Yes, it is true that regenerative agriculture is the most talked about new concept in food, farming and climate circles, but it is in danger of being watered down, dumbed down, and coopted by corporate agribusiness and carbon credit profiteers and greenwashers, as evidenced most recently at COP-26, the U.N. Global Climate Summit, in Glasgow. https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/over-700-groups-demand-real-climate-solutions-not-net-zero-promises

Unfortunately, the “progressive”, urban-based climate action movement has apparently still not understood or fully embraced regenerative principles and practices. Climate change action leaders are still talking almost exclusively about eliminating fossil fuels in the time frame we have left to avoid catastrophe, with little mention of the Great Drawdown of regenerative farming and land-use that must accompany a renewable energy revolution if we are to restore climate stability.

The Death of a Regenerative Green New Deal

Media coverage of regenerative food and farming, both mainstream and alternative, has certainly increased since 2014, but serious public interest in Regeneration, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, has waned. Although sales of organic and local food, and cooking at home have certainly increased since the onset of COVID, the Green New Deal (GND) Resolution in Congress (with its positive advocacy of regenerative food and farming) is dead, at least for the moment.

The GND has now become not much more than a limited partisan program, supported by climate activists and a minority of Democrats in the Congress. Even worse, the World Economic Forum and advocates for a Great Reset have attempted to hijack GND language and concepts as part of their technocratic and authoritarian agenda. https://www.organicconsumers.org/newsletter/defying-censorship/great-reset-or-great-divide

Potential rural and farmer support for a regenerative GND evaporated after the Democratic Party Establishment shoved aside Bernie Sanders, the only Presidential candidate in 2020 with a grasp of how a GND with an emphasis on regenerative food and farming could revitalize family farms, public health, and create rural jobs and economic prosperity.

Unfortunately, Sanders, after being slandered and marginalized by the mass media and the Democratic Party Establishment joined ranks with the Biden administration on pandemic policies, offering no real alternative to the Democratic Party’s panic-mongering and profiteering, despite decades of Sanders attacking Big Pharma, Wall Street, and military madness.

Joe Biden destroyed his political credibility, just as the Trump administration did before him, by failing to “stop the panic” engendered by Big Pharma, the mass media, and hyper-partisan Democrats surrounding the pandemic. Democrats (and the Republicans before them) in the White House, basically failed to articulate the independent and nuanced science regarding the real, though relative virulence, of SARS-CoV-2. Both administrations ignored or down-played the lab origins of COVID-19, the global cover-up and the role of U.S. and Pentagon funding and scientific collaboration. Both Trump and Biden allowed Anthony Fauci and Big Pharma to set policy, and rejected (Biden) or downplayed (Trump) the independent scientists and doctors advocating prevention healthy food, Vitamin D supplementation, and natural or “herd” immunity (youth, those in good health, and those previously recovered from COVID-19). Both administrations basically stood by as Fauci, Bill Gates, media monopolies and Silicon Valley slandered and censored early treatment and/or prevention of COVID-19, www.FLCCC.net utilizing off-patent, inexpensive generic drugs such as Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine, and nutrition supplements. Instead both Trump (who initially spoke out on hydroxychloroquine, but then went silent) and Biden regurgitated vaccine profiteer propaganda, claiming that “Warp Speed,” rushed-to-market, experimental vaccines would stop the pandemic.

Biden, like the Trump administration before him, allowed Big Pharma, Anthony Fauci, Bill Gates, vaccine profiteers, Silicon Valley, and Pentagon contractors to call the shots, rather than listening to independent scientists, medical practitioners, and investigators regarding the origins, nature, virulence, prevention, and treatment of COVID-19, as well as the relative safety and efficacy of the experimental vaccines. Trump and Biden both flip-flopped back and forth on the obvious Wuhan lab origins and cover-up of COVID, seemingly more interested in maintaining “business as usual” in their relations with Big Pharma and China, rather than putting an end to the dangerous weaponizing of viruses and pathogens in unregulated and accident-prone labs, a mad science that continues unabated, not only in the U.S. and China, but across the world.

At the present time the majority of Americans seem to be more concerned about the latest (highly transmissible but relatively harmless) variant of SARS-CoV-2, the Omicron, than they are about the Climate Emergency, the virtual Civil War among the body politic, the shredding of the Constitution, or the fact that hundreds of millions of working class, rural, minority, and young people have been forced into poverty, psychological despair, or economic hardship by the collateral damage and bungled/authoritarian government responses to the pandemic.

However, this preoccupation or mass psychosis is likely to change over the next few months as the dominant, far less virulent Omicron variant spreads across the global and engenders large-scale natural (herd) immunity.

As the Biden Administration self-destructs because of its “business as usual” politics and its disastrous and authoritarian handling of the COVID crisis, the Republican Party is poised to take back control over Congress and the White House in 2022-24. Even though a GOP Congress will hopefully reverse the dictates of our bio-medical security state, especially as the pandemic winds down, we must keep in mind that most Republican politicians are still as routinely compromised by the fossil fuel industry, the Pentagon, Wall Street, Big Pharma, and corporate agribusiness as the Democrats.

Neither party seems to be able to “connect the dots” between the climate crisis, Big Ag’s toxic food, the decline of family farms and rural communities, deforestation, a polluted environment, deteriorating public health, a chronic disease epidemic, and our continuing vulnerability to engineered pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2.

Unfortunately, climate activists such as the Sunrise Movement in the U.S. or Extinction Rebellion in the E.U., and individual leaders such as Greta Thunberg or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have utterly failed to integrate regenerative food, farming, and land use into their core messaging about solving the climate crisis. As a result, the climate movement largely failed to gain rural and bi-partisan (i.e. both Republican and Democratic voter) support for a Green New Deal in the crucial period of 2018-2020, when polls showed massive public support for a GND that could both fix the climate and rejuvenate the economy, both rural and urban. In addition, none of the leading candidates for President in 2020, except for Bernie Sanders https://www.organicconsumers.org/blog/bernie-joins-regeneration-revolution really pushed the GND, much less the regenerative component of the Green New Deal in their outreach to farmers, rural communities, and health, organic, and climate conscious consumers.

Although Regeneration proponents including RI were able to successfully lobby the Sunrise Movement into including wording on regenerative farming and land use in the Green New Deal Resolution in 2019, supported by over 100 Democrats in the Congress, climate action leaders never gave regenerative agriculture the emphasis and focus it needed. Thus the bi-partisan coalition that RI organized, called Farmers and Ranchers for a Green New Deal, never achieved its goal of uniting rural farmers, urban consumers, students, and climate-motivated voters into a powerful united front.

Next Steps

Although there have been setbacks, especially on the political front, for the Regeneration Movement, we intend to push forward. In 2022 and beyond OCA, RI, and our allies will continue our efforts to educate and mobilize the body politic, across party lines and the rural-urban divide, to understand the importance of moving organic and agro-ecological food and farming to its next stage, which we call regenerative organic.

Beyond general education, we will also step up our efforts to locate, map, https://www.organicconsumers.org/blog/theres-a-map-for-that publicize, promote, and raise funds for regenerative and organic best practices around the world, developing models for how to implement and scale-up best practices such as our Mexico-based agave agroforestry system for arid and semi-arid areas, rainforest restoration and agroforestry in Latin America and Asia, regenerative “tree-range” poultry and holistic grazing in North America and overseas, and ocean farming, among others.

OCA and RI’s number one priority, working with the Hudson Carbon Project, https://www.organicconsumers.org/blog/what-you-should-know-about-carbon-offsets is to develop scientifically verifiable and credible data and criteria for genuine carbon sequestration (both above and below ground), eco-system restoration, and poverty eradication for regenerative and organic farming and land-use practices. We believe this is the best way to move beyond greenwashing and bogus carbon credits and carbon trading, and to generate a critical mass of public funding and private investment that can pay millions of farmers, ranchers, and land managers across the world a fair price to scale-up regenerative and organic best practices across the globe.

Stay tuned. We will be talking a lot more about scaling-up regenerative best practices in future issues of Organic Bytes.

Ronnie Cummins is co-founder of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and Regeneration International, and the author of “Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Food, Farming, Climate and a Green New Deal.” 

André Leu: Regenerative Farming Is the Next Stage of Agricultural Evolution

“Regenerative agriculture and animal husbandry is the next and higher stage of organic food and farming, not only free from toxic pesticides, GMOs, chemical fertilizers, and factory farm production, and therefore good for human health; but also regenerative in terms of the health of the soil.” — Ronnie Cummins

Hardly anyone had heard of regenerative agriculture before 2014. Now it is in the news every day all around the world. A small group of leaders of the organic, agroecology, holistic management, environment and natural health movements started Regeneration International as a truly inclusive and representative umbrella organization.

The concept was initially formed at the United Nations Climate Change Meeting in New York in October 2014. The aim was to set up a global network of like-minded agricultural, environmental and social organizations.

The initial steering committee meetings included Dr. Vandana Shiva from Navdanya, Ronnie Cummins from the Organic Consumers Association, Dr. Hans Herren from The Millennium Institute, Steve Rye from Mercola, and myself, André Leu from IFOAM-Organics International. It was soon expanded to include Precious Phiri from the Africa Savory Hub, Ercilia Sahores from Via Organica in Mexico, Renate Künaste from the German Green Party, John Liu, the China based filmmaker, and Tom Newmark and Larry Kopald from the Carbon Underground.

Our founding meeting was held on a biodynamic farm in Costa Rica in 2015. We deliberately chose to hold it in the global south rather than in North America or Europe and include women and men from every continent to send a message that regeneration was about equity, fairness and inclusiveness. Ronnie Cummins raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for the travel, accommodation, food and other expenses for all the representatives from the global south.

The meeting agreed to form Regeneration International to promote a holistic concept of regeneration. The following mission and vision statements came out of this consultative and inclusive event.

Our missionTo promote, facilitate and accelerate the global transition to regenerative food, farming and land management for the purpose of restoring climate stability, ending world hunger and rebuilding deteriorated social, ecological and economic systems.

Our vision: A healthy global ecosystem in which practitioners of regenerative agriculture and land use, in concert with consumers, educators, business leaders and policymakers, cool the planet, nourish the world and restore public health, prosperity and peace on a global scale.

In six years Regeneration International has grown to more than 360 partner organizations in 70 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania, North America and Europe.

The Third Phase

The need to form an international regeneration movement was inspired in part by the development of Organic 3.0 by IFOAM – Organics International. Organic 3.0 was conceived as an ongoing process of enabling organic agriculture to actively engage with social and environmental issues and been seen as a positive agent of change.

Organic 3.0 has six main features. The fourth feature was the “inclusiveness of wider sustainability interests, through alliances with the many movements and organizations that have complementary approaches to truly sustainable food and farming.”

One aim of Organic 3.0 was to work with like-minded organizations, movements and similar farming systems with the aim of making all of agriculture more sustainable. The concept was to have organic agriculture as a positive lighthouse of change to improve the sustainability of mainstream agriculture systems.

Beyond Sustainable

Many people in the organic, agroecology and environmental movements were not happy with the term sustainable for a number of reasons, not the least that it has been completely greenwashed and was seen as meaningless: “Sustainable means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Unfortunately, this definition of sustainable has led to concept of sustainable intensification, where more inputs are used in the same area of land to increase productivity and proportionately lower negative environmental footprints. This concept has been used in sustainable agriculture to justify GMOs, synthetic toxic pesticides and water-soluble chemical fertilizers to produce more commodities per hectare/acre. This was presented as better for the environment than “low yielding” organic agriculture and agroecological systems that need more land to produce the same level of commodities. Sustainable intensification is used to justify the destruction of tropical forests for the industrial scale farming of commodities such as GMO corn and soy that are shipped to large scale animal feedlots in Europe and China. The rationale for this is that less land is needed to produce animal products compared to extensive rangeland systems or organic systems. These sustainable intensification systems meet the above definition of sustainable compared to organic, agroecological and holistically managed, pasture-based systems. Companies like Bayer/Monsanto were branding themselves as the largest sustainable agriculture companies in the world. Many of us believed it was time to move past sustainable.

In this era of the Anthropocene, in which human activities are the dominant forces that negatively affect the environment, the world is facing multiple crises. These include the climate crisis, food insecurity, an epidemic of non-contagious chronic diseases, new pandemics of contagious diseases, wars, migration crises, ocean acidification, the collapse of whole ecosystems, the continuous extraction of resources and the greatest extinction event in geological history.

Do we want to sustain the current status quo or do we want to improve and rejuvenate it? Simply being sustainable is not enough. Regeneration, by definition, improves systems.

Hijacking Standards

Another driver towards regeneration were the widespread concerns about the hijacking of organic standards and production systems by corporate agribusiness. The neglect of the primacy of soil health and soil organic matter, as well as allowing inappropriate plowing methods, were raised as major criticisms.

Jerome Rodale, who popularized the term organic farming in the 1940s, used the term specifically in relation to farming systems that improved soil health by recycling and increasing soil organic matter. Consequently, most organic standards start with this; however certifiers rarely, if ever, check this these days. The introduction of certified organic hydroponics as soilless organic systems was been seen by many as the ultimate sell-out and loss of credibility.

Major concerns and criticisms about the hijacking of certified organic by industrial agriculture were raised by allies in the agroecology and holistic management movements. These included large scale, industrial, organic monocultures and organic Confined Animal Feed Operations (CAFOs). These CAFOS go against the important principles of no cruelty and the need to allow animals to naturally express their behaviors, which are found in most organic standards. The use of synthetic supplements in certified organic CAFOs was seen as undermining the very basis of the credibility of certified organic systems. The lack of enforcement was seen as a major issue. These issues were and still are areas of major dispute and contention within global and national organic sectors.

Many people wanted a way forward and saw the concept of “Regenerative Organic Agriculture,” put forward by Robert Rodale, son of the organic pioneer Jerome Rodale, as a way to resolve this. Bob Rodale used the term regenerative organic agriculture to promote farming practices that go beyond sustainable.

Greenwashing

The term regenerative agriculture is now being widely used, to the point that in some cases it can be seen as greenwashing and as a buzzword used by industrial agricultural systems to increase profits.

Those of us who formed Regeneration International were very aware of the way the large agribusiness corporations hijacked the term sustainable to the point is was meaningless. We were also aware of how they are trying to hijack the term of agroecology, especially through the United Nations systems and in some parts of Europe, Africa and Latin America where a little biodiversity is sprinkled as greenwash over agricultural systems that still use toxic synthetic pesticides and water-soluble chemical fertilizers.

Similarly we have been concerned about the way organic agriculture standards and systems have been hijacked by industrial agribusiness as previously stated in the above section.

The critical issue is, how do we engage with agribusiness in a way that can change their systems in a positive way as proposed in Organic 3.0? Many of the corporations that are adopting regenerative systems are improving their soil organic matter levels using systems such as cover crops. They are also implementing programs that reduce toxic chemical inputs and improving environmental outcomes. These actions should be seen as positive changes in the right direction. They are a start — not an end point. Remember that there are also corporations that are rebranding their herbicide sprayed GMO no-till systems as regenerative.

The opposite of regenerative is degenerative. By definition, agricultural systems that are using degenerative practices and inputs that damage the environment, soil and health — such as synthetic toxic pesticides, synthetic water soluble fertilizers and destructive tillage systems, cannot be considered regenerative — and should not use the term. They must be called out as degenerative.

The Path Forward

From the perspective of Regeneration International, all agricultural systems should be regenerative and organic using the science of agroecology.

Bob Rodale observed that an ecosystem will naturally regenerate once the disturbance stops. Consequently, regenerative agriculture, working with nature, not only maintains resources, it improves them.

Regeneration should be seen as a way to determine how to improve systems and to determine what practices are acceptable and what are degenerative and therefore unacceptable. The criteria to analyze this must be based on the Four Principles of Organic Agriculture. These principles are clear and effective ways to decide what practices are regenerative and what are degenerative.

Consequently, the four principles of organic agriculture are seen as consistent and applicable to regenerative agriculture.

Health: Organic agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible.

Ecology: Organic agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.

Fairness: Organic agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities.

Care: Organic agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment.

Why Regenerative Agriculture?

The majority of the world’s population is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture. Agricultural producers are amongst the most exploited, food and health insecure, least educated and poorest people on our planet, despite producing most of the food we eat.

Agriculture in its various forms has the most significant effect on land use on the planet. Industrial agriculture is responsible for most of the environmental degradation, forest destruction, toxic chemicals in our food and environment and a significant contributor, up to 50 percent, to the climate crisis. The degenerative forms of agriculture are an existential threat to us and most other species on our planet. We have to regenerate agriculture for social, environmental, economic and cultural reasons.

Soil Focus

The soil is fundamental to all terrestrial life of this planet. Our food and biodiversity start with the soil. The soil is not dirt — it is living, breathing and teeming with life. The soil microbiome is the most complex and richest area of biodiversity on our planet. The area with the greatest biodiversity is the rhizosphere, the region around roots of plants.

Plants feed the soil microbiome with the molecules of life that they create through photosynthesis. These molecules are the basis of organic matter — carbon-based molecules — that all life on earth depends on. Organic matter is fundamental to all life and soil organic matter is fundamental to life in the soil.

Farming practices that increase soil organic matter (SOM) increase fertility, water holding capacity, pest and disease resilience and, thus, the productivity of agricultural systems. Because SOM comes from carbon dioxide fixed through photosynthesis, increasing SOM can have a significant impact in reversing the climate crisis by drawing down this greenhouse gas.

The fact is our health and wealth comes from the soil.

Regenerative agriculture is now being used as an umbrella term for the many farming systems that use techniques such as longer rotations, cover crops, green manures, legumes, compost and organic fertilizers to increase SOM. These include: organic agriculture, agroforestry, agroecology, permaculture, holistic grazing, sylvopasture, syntropic farming and many other agricultural systems that can increase SOM. SOM is an important proxy for soil health — as soils with low levels are not healthy.

However, our global regeneration movement is far more than this.

Regeneration Revolution

We have a lot of work to do. We are currently living well beyond our planetary boundaries and extracting far more than our planet can provide. As Dr. Vandana Shiva puts it: “Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.”

According to Bob Rodale, regenerative organic agriculture systems are those that improve the resources they use, rather than destroying or depleting them. It is a holistic systems approach to farming that encourages continual innovation for environmental, social, economic and spiritual wellbeing.

The vast majority of the destruction of biodiversity, the greenhouse gases, pesticides, endocrine disrupters, plastics, poverty, hunger and poor nutrition are directly caused by the billionaire corporate cartels and their obscene greed aided by their morally corrupt cronies. We need to continue to call them out for their degenerative practices.

More importantly, we need to build the new regenerative system that will replace the current degenerate system.

We have more than enough resources for everyone to live a life of wellbeing. The world produces around 3 times more food than we need. We have unfair, exploitative and wasteful systems that need to be transformed and regenerated.

We need to regenerate our societies so we must be proactive in ensuring that others have access to land, education, healthcare, income, the commons and empowerment. This must include women, men and youths across all ethnic and racial groups.

We must take care of each other and regenerate our planet. We must take control and empower ourselves to be the agents of change. We need to regenerate a world based on the Four Principles of Organic Agriculture: Health, Ecology Fairness and Care.

Ronnie Cummins, one of our founders, wrote: “Never underestimate the power of one individual: yourself. But please understand, at the same time, that what we do as individuals will never be enough. We’ve got to get organized and we’ve got to help others, in our region, in our nation, and everywhere build a mighty Green Regeneration Movement. The time to begin is now.”

André Leu is the author of The Myths of Safe Pesticides and Poisoning Our Children. He previously served as president of IFOAM — Organics International and is currently the international director of Regeneration International. 

Regenerative Food and Farming: Survival and Revival

“Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the climate crisis, and the crisis of democracy.” Dr. Vandana Shiva, Co-Founder Regeneration International

Regenerative agriculture and holistic livestock management represent the next, crucial stage of organic food and farming, not only avoiding toxic pesticides, fertilizers, sewage sludge, GMO seeds, and excessive greenhouse gas emissions, but regenerating soil fertility, water retention, carbon sequestration, and rural livelihoods as well.

Regeneration has now become the hottest topic in the natural and organic food sector. At the same time, climate activists regularly discuss the role of organic and regenerative practices in reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering excess atmospheric carbon dioxide in soils and agricultural landscapes.

Inside Regeneration International, which now includes 400 affiliates in more than 60 countries, our primary focus is  moving beyond the basics of Regeneration to identifying regenerative and organic “best practices” around the globe and figuring out how to utilize farmer innovation, marketplace demand, policy reform, and public and private investing to qualitatively spread and scale these best practices up so that organic and regenerative becomes the norm, rather than just the alternative, for the planet’s now degenerative multitrillion-dollar food, farming and land use system.

Either we move beyond merely treating the symptoms of our planetary degeneration and build instead a new system based upon regenerative food, farming and land use, coupled with renewable energy practices and global cooperation instead of superpower competition and belligerence, or we will soon pass the point of no return.

In 2010 Olaf Christen stated, “Regenerative agriculture is an approach in agriculture that rejects pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and is intended to improve the regeneration of the topsoil, biodiversity and the water cycle.”

This corresponds almost exactly with the stated principles of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) or Organics International.

Since 2014, the Rodale Institute, IFOAM, Dr. Bronner’s, Dr. Mercola, Patagonia, the Real Organic Project, the Biodynamic Movement, the Organic Consumers Association, Regeneration International, Navdanya and others have also been discussing and implementing organic standards, practices and certification, which incorporate regenerative principles.

Changing the Conversation: Regenerative Food and Farming

In September 2014 a group of food, natural health and climate activists, including Vandana Shiva, Andre Leu, Will Allen, Steve Rye, Alexis Baden-Meyer and staff from Dr. Bronner’s, Dr. Mercola, Organic Consumers Association and the Rodale Institute, organized a press conference at the massive climate march in New York City to announce the formation of Regeneration International and to set for ourselves a simple, but what seemed like then ambitious, goal.

We all pledged to change the conversation on the climate crisis in the U.S. and around the world — then narrowly focused on renewable energy and energy conservation — so as to incorporate regenerative and organic food, farming and land use as a major solution to global warming, given its proven ability to drawdown and sequester massive amounts of excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the soil, trees, and plants.

Now, seven years later, it appears that our growing Regeneration Movement has achieved this goal. Regeneration is now the hottest topic in the natural and organic food and farming sector, while climate activists including the Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion regularly talk about the role of organic and regenerative practices in reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

More and more people now understand that we can achieve, through enhanced photosynthesis and drawdown, “Net Zero” emissions by 2030, a figure will be necessary if we are to avoid runaway global warming and climate catastrophe.

Identifying Regenerative and Organic ‘Best Practices’

Inside Regeneration International, which now includes 400 affiliates in more than 60 countries, our conversation has shifted from promoting a basic discussion about organic and regenerative food, farming, and land-use to identifying regenerative and organic “best practices” around the globe.

Our discussions and strategizing are not just an academic exercise. As most of us now realize, our very survival as a civilization and a species is threatened by a systemic crisis that has degraded climate stability, our food and our environment, along with every major aspect of modern life.

This mega-crisis cannot be resolved by piecemeal reforms or minor adjustments such as slightly cutting our current levels of fossil fuel use, reducing global deforestation, soil degradation and military spending.

Either we move beyond merely treating the symptoms of our planetary degeneration and build instead a new system based upon regenerative food, farming and land use, coupled with renewable energy practices and global cooperation instead of belligerence, or we will soon (likely within 25 years) pass the point of no return.

A big challenge is how do we describe the crisis of global warming and severe climate change in such a way that everyday people understand the problem and grasp the solution that we’re proposing, i.e., renewable energy and regenerative food, farming and land use?

Enhanced Photosynthesis Is All-Important

The bottom line is that humans have put too much CO2 and other greenhouse gases (especially methane and nitrous oxide) into the atmosphere (from burning fossil fuels and destructive land use), trapping the sun’s heat from radiating back into space and heating up the planet.

And, unfortunately, because of the destructive food, farming and forestry practices that have degraded a major portion of the Earth’s landscape, we’re not drawing down enough of these CO2 emissions through plant photosynthesis, soil carbon sequestration, and perennial above ground carbon storage in biomass (forest, grass, and plants) to cool things off.

In a word, there’s too much CO2 and greenhouse gas pollution blanketing the sky (and saturating the oceans) and not enough life-giving carbon in the ground and in our living plants, trees, pastures, and rangelands.

Increasing plant and forest photosynthesis (accomplished via enhanced soil fertility and biological life, as well as an adequate amount of water and minerals) is the only practical way that we can draw down a significant amount of the excess CO2 and greenhouse gases in our atmosphere that are heating up the Earth and disrupting our climate.

Through photosynthesis, plants and trees utilize solar energy to break down CO2 from the atmosphere, release oxygen, and transform the remaining carbon into plant biomass and liquid carbon.

Photosynthesis basically enables plants to grow above ground and produce biomass, but also stimulates growth below ground as plants transfer a portion of the liquid carbon they produce through photosynthesis into their root systems to feed the soil microorganisms that in turn feed the plant.

From the standpoint of drawing down enough CO2 and greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and sequestering them in our soils and biota to reverse global warming, qualitatively enhanced photosynthesis is all-important.

Agave Power: Greening the Desert

As RI, OCA, and our Mexico affiliate Via Organica’s contribution to the global expansion of regenerative and organic food and farming practices, we have spent the last several years working with Mexican farmers and ranchers, the Hudson Carbon Project, consumer organizations, elected political officials (mainly at the local and state level), and socially and environmentally-concerned “impact investors.”

Our goal is to develop a native agave agroforestry and livestock management system that we believe can be a game-changer for much of the 40% of the world’s pasturelands and rangelands that are arid and semi-arid, areas where it is now nearly impossible to grow food crops without irrigation, and where the land is too overgrazed and degraded for proper livestock grazing.

We call this Mexico-based agave and agroforestry/livestock management system Agave Power: Greening the Desert, and are happy to report that its ideas and practices are now starting to spread from the high desert plateau of Guanajuato across much of arid and semi-arid Mexico.

We now are receiving inquiries and requests for information about this agave-based, polyculture/perennial system from desert and semi-desert areas all over the world, including Central America, the Southwestern U.S., Argentina, Chile, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Australia, Lebanon, and Oman.

You can learn more about this Agave Power system on the websites of Regeneration International and the Organic Consumers Association.

Primary Drivers of Regeneration and Degeneration

What I and others have learned “on the ground” trying to expand and scale-up regenerative and organic best practices is that there are four basic drivers of regenerative (or conversely degenerative) food, farming and land use.

The first driver is consumer awareness and market demand. Without an army of conscious consumers and widespread market demand, regenerative practices are unlikely to reach critical mass. The second driver is farmer, rancher and land stewardship innovation, including the development of value-added products and ecosystem restoration services.

The third driver is policy change, starting at the local and regional level. And last, but not least is regenerative finance — large-scale investing on the part of the public and private sector, what is now commonly known as “impact investing.”

In order to qualitatively expand organic and regenerative best practices and achieve critical mass sufficient to transform our currently degenerative systems, we need all four of these drivers to be activated and working in synergy.

Let’s look now at four contemporary drivers of degeneration, degenerative food, farming and land use, in order to understand what the forces or drivers are that are holding us back from moving forward to regeneration.

 

1-Degenerated grassroots consciousness and morale — When literally billions of people, a critical mass of the 99%, are hungry, malnourished, and/or stuffed and supersized with ultraprocessed foods and empty calories, revolution is all but impossible. When billions are scared and divided, struggling to survive with justice and dignity… when the majority of the global body politic are threatened and assaulted by a toxic environment and food system; when hundreds of millions are overwhelmed by economic stress due to low wages and the high cost of living; when hundreds of millions are weakened by chronic health problems, or battered by floods, droughts and weather extremes, regenerative change — Big Change — will not come easily.

Neither will it happen if we continue to allow endless wars and land grabs for water, land and strategic resources to spiral out of control, or fail to organize and resist on a mass scale while indentured politicians, corporations, Big Tech, and the mass media manipulate crises such as COVID-19 to stamp out freedom of expression and participatory democracy in order to force a “Business-as-Usual” or “Great Reset” paradigm down our throats.

Disempowered, exploited people, overwhelmed by the challenges of everyday survival, usually don’t have the luxury of connecting the dots between the issues that are pressing down on them and focusing on the Big Picture.

It’s the job of regenerators to connect the dots between the climate crisis, COVID-19, elite control and people’s everyday concerns including food, natural health, jobs, and economic justice, to globalize awareness, political mobilization and, most of all, to globalize hope.

It’s the job of regenerators to make the connections between personal and public health and planetary health, to expose the truth about the origins, nature, prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and chronic disease, and to mobilize the public to reject a so-called Great Reset disguised as fundamental reform, but actually a Trojan Horse for a 21st Century Technocracy that is profoundly antidemocratic and authoritarian.

Regenerators have to be able to make the connections between different issues and concerns, identify and support best practitioners and policies and build synergy between social forces, effectively lobby governments (starting at the local level), businesses and investors for change, all the while educating and organizing grassroots alliances and campaigns across communities, constituencies and even national borders.

But of course this long-overdue Regeneration Revolution will not be easy, nor will it take place overnight. Our profoundly destructive, degenerative, climate-destabilizing food and farming system, primarily based upon industrial agriculture inputs and practices, is held together by a multibillion-dollar system of marketing and advertising that has misled or literally brainwashed a global army of consumers into believing that cheap, ultra-processed, artificially flavored, “fast food” is not only acceptable, but “normal” and “natural.”

After decades of consuming sugar, salt, carbohydrate-rich and “bad fat”-laden foods from industrial farms, animal factories and chemical manufacturing plants, many consumers have literally become addicted to the artificial flavors and aromas that make super-processed foods and “food-like substances” so popular.

2-Degenerate “conventional” farms, farming and livestock management  

Compounding the lack of nutritional education, choice, poverty, inertia and apathy of a large segment of consumers, other major factors driving our degenerative food and farming system include the routine and deeply institutionalized practices of industrial and chemical-intensive farming and land use (mono-cropping, heavy plowing, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, GMOs, factory farms, deforestation, wetlands destruction) today.

These soil-, climate-, health- and environmentally-destructive practices are especially prevalent on the world’s 50 million large farms, which, in part, are kept in place by global government subsidies totaling $500 billion a year.

Meanwhile, there are few or no subsidies for organic or regenerative farmers, especially small farmers (80% of the world’s farmers are small farmers), nor for farmers and ranchers who seek to make this transition.

Reinforcing these multibillion-dollar subsidies for bad farming practices are a global network of chemical- and agribusiness-controlled agricultural research and teaching institutions, focused on producing cheap food and beverages (no matter what the cost to the environment, climate and public health) and agro-export agricultural commodities (often pesticide-intensive GMO grains).

What we need instead are subsidies for organic and regenerative practices, research and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to produce healthy, organic and regenerative food for local, regional and domestic markets, rewarding farmers with a fair price for producing healthy food and being a steward, rather than a destroyer, of the environment.

3-Monopoly Control — Another driver of degeneration, holding back farmer adoption of regenerative practices and determining the type of food and crops that are produced, is the monopoly or near-monopoly control by giant agribusiness corporations over much of the food system, especially in industrialized countries, as well as the monopoly or near-monopoly control by giant retail chains such as Walmart and internet giants like Amazon.

The out-of-control “Foodopoly” that dominates our food system is designed to maximize short-term profits and exports for the large transnational corporations, preserve patents and monopoly control over seeds, and uphold international trade agreements (NAFTA, WTO) that favor corporate agribusiness and large farms over small farms; factory farms over traditional grazing and animal husbandry; and agro- exports instead of production for local and regional markets.

Food and farming is the largest industry in the world with consumers spending an estimated $7.5 trillion a year on food. In addition, the largely unacknowledged social, environmental and health costs (i.e., collateral damage) of the industrial food chain amounts to an additional $4.8 trillion a year. https://www.organicconsumers.org/sites/default/files/etc-whowillfeedus.pdf

4-Degenerate public policy and public and private investments  

Agriculture is the largest employer in the world with 570 million farmers and farm laborers supporting 3.5 billion people in rural households and communities. https://www.organicconsumers.org/sites/default/files/etc-whowillfeedus.pdf In addition to workers on the farm, food chain workers in processing, distribution and retail make up hundreds of millions of other jobs in the world, with over 20 million food chain workers in the U.S. alone (17.5% of the total workforce).

This makes public policy relating to food, farming and land use very important. Unfortunately, thousands of laws and regulations are passed every year, in every country and locality, that basically prop up conventional (i.e., industrial, factory farm, export-oriented, GMO) food and farming, while there is very little legislation passed or resources geared toward promoting organic and regenerative food and farming.

Trillions of dollars have been, and continue to be, invested in the so-called “conventional” food and farming sector, including trillions from the savings and pension funds of many conscious consumers, who would no doubt prefer their savings to be invested in a different manner, if they knew how to do this.

Unfortunately, only a tiny percentage of public or private investment is currently going toward organic, grass fed, free-range and other healthy foods produced by small and medium-sized farms and ranches for local and regional consumption.

Healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy animals, healthy people, healthy climate, healthy societies — our physical and economic health, our very survival as a species, are directly connected to the soil, biodiversity and the health and fertility of our food and farming systems. Regenerative organic farming and land use can move us back into balance, back to a stable climate and a life-supporting environment.

It’s time to move beyond degenerate ethics, farming, land use, energy policies, politics and economics. It’s time to move beyond “too little, too late” mitigation and sustainability strategies. It’s time to inspire and mobilize a mighty global army of Regenerators, before it’s too late.

 

Ronnie Cummins is co-founder of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and Regeneration International. To keep up with RI’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Our Global Regeneration Revolution: Organic 3.0 to Regenerative and Organic Agriculture

“Regenerative agriculture and animal husbandry is the next and higher stage of organic food and farming, not only free from toxic pesticides, GMOs, chemical fertilizers, and factory farm production, and therefore good for human health; but also regenerative in terms of the health of the soil.” Ronnie Cummins

Regeneration is a Global Revolution

Hardly anyone had heard of regenerative agriculture before 2014. Now it is in the news everyday all around the world. A small group of leaders of the organic, agroecology, holistic management, environment and natural health movements started Regeneration International as a truly inclusive and representative umbrella organization.

The concept was initially formed at the United Nations Climate Change Meeting in New York in October 2014, at a meeting in the Rodale headquarters. The aim was to set up a global network of like minded agricultural, environmental and social organizations.

The initial steering committee meetings included Dr Vandana Shiva from Navdanya, Ronnie Cummins from the Organic Consumers Association, Dr Hans Herren from The Millennium Institute, Steve Rye from Mercola and myself, André Leu from IFOAM-Organics International. It was soon expanded to include Precious Phiri from the Africa Savory Hub, Ercilia Sahores from Via Organica in Mexico, Renate Künaste from the German Green Party, John Liu the China based filmmaker and Tom Newmark and Larry Kopald from the Carbon Underground.

Our founding meeting was held on a biodynamic farm in Costa Rica in 2015. We deliberately chose to hold it in the global south rather than in North America or Europe and include women and men from every continent to send a message that regeneration was about equity, fairness and inclusiveness. Ronnie Cummins raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for the travel, accommodation, food and other expenses for all the representatives from the global south. It was a truly global and inclusive start.

The meeting agreed to form Regeneration International to promote a holistic concept of regeneration. The following consensus Mission and Vision Statements came out of this consultative and inclusive event.

OUR MISSION

To promote, facilitate and accelerate the global transition to regenerative food, farming and land management for the purpose of restoring climate stability, ending world hunger and rebuilding deteriorated social, ecological and economic systems.

OUR VISION

A healthy global ecosystem in which practitioners of regenerative agriculture and land use, in concert with consumers, educators, business leaders and policymakers, cool the planet, nourish the world and restore public health, prosperity and peace on a global scale.

In six years Regeneration International has grown to more than 360 partner organizations in 70 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania, North America and Europe.

Organic 3.0 the third phase of the Organic sector

The need to form an international regeneration movement was inspired in part by the development of Organic 3.0 by IFOAM – Organics International. Organic 3.0 was conceived as an ongoing process of enabling organic agriculture actively engage with social and environmental issues and been seen as a positive agent of change.

Organic 3.0 has six main features. The fourth feature was the “Inclusiveness of wider sustainability interests, through alliances with the many movements and organizations that have complementary approaches to truly sustainable food and farming.”

One aim of Organic 3.0 was to work with like minded organizations, movements and similar farming systems with the aim of making all of agriculture more sustainable. The concept was to have organic agriculture as a positive lighthouse of change to improve the sustainability of mainstream agriculture systems, as seen in the following diagram.

Move beyond Sustainable

Many people in the organic, agroecology and environmental movements were not happy with the term sustainable for a number of reasons, not the least that it has been completely greenwashed and was seen as meaningless.

“Sustainable means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Unfortunately, this definition of sustainable has led to concept of Sustainable Intensification – where more inputs are used in the same area of land to lower negative environmental footprints. This concept has been used in sustainable agriculture to justify GMOs, synthetic toxic pesticides and water soluble chemical fertilizers to produce more commodities per hectare/acre. This was presented as better for the environment than “low yielding” organic agriculture and agroecological systems that need more land to produce the same level of commodities. Sustainable Intensification is used to justify the destruction of tropical forests for the industrial scale farming of commodities such as GMO corn and soy that are shipped to large scale animal feedlots in Europe and China, on the basis that less land is needed to produce animal products compared to extensive rangeland systems or organic systems. These Sustainable Intensification systems meet the above definition of sustainable compared to organic, agroecological and holistically managed pasture based systems.

Companies like Bayer/Monsanto were branding themselves as the largest sustainable agriculture companies in the world. Many of us believed it was time to move past sustainable.

In this era of the Anthropocene, in which human activities are the dominant forces that negatively affect the environment, the world is facing multiple environmental, social, and economic crises. These include the climate crisis, food insecurity, an epidemic of non-contagious chronic diseases, new pandemics of contagious diseases, wars, migration crises, ocean acidification, the collapse of whole ecosystems, the continuous extraction of resources, and the greatest extinction event in geological history.

Do we want to sustain the current status quo or do we want to improve and rejuvenate it? Simply being sustainable is not enough. Regeneration, by definition, improves systems.

The Hijacking of Organic Standards       

Another driver towards regeneration were the widespread concerns about the hijacking of organic standards and production systems by corporate agribusiness.

The neglect of the primacy of soil health and soil organic matter and allowing inappropriate plowing methods were raised as major criticisms.

The organic pioneers started concept of soil health. Jerome Rodale who popularized the term Organic Farming in the 1940s used the term specifically in relation to farming systems that improved soil health by recycling and increasing soil organic matter. Consequently most organic standards start with this, however certifiers rarely check this – if ever these days. The introduction of certified organic hydroponics as soilless organic systems, was been seen by many as the ultimate sell out and loss of credibility for certified organic systems.

Major concerns and criticisms about the hijacking of certified organic by industrial agriculture were raised by allies in the agroecology and holistic management movements. These included large scale, industrial, organic monocultures and organic Confined Animal Feed Operations (CAFOs).  These CAFOS go against the important principles of no cruelty and the need to allow animals to naturally express their behaviors, that are found in most organic standards. The use of synthetic supplements in certified organic CAFOs was seen as undermining the very basis of the credibility of certified organic systems. The lack of enforcement was seen as a major issue. These issues were and still are areas of major dispute and contention within global and national organic sectors.

Many people wanted a way forward and saw the concept of ‘Regenerative Organic Agriculture’, put forward by Robert Rodale, son of the organic pioneer Jerome Rodale, as a way to resolve this. Bob Rodale, used the term regenerative organic agriculture to promote farming practices that go beyond sustainable.

Dealing with Greenwashing

The term regenerative agriculture is now being widely used, to the point that in some cases it can be seen as greenwashing and as a buzz word used by industrial agricultural systems to increase profits.

Those of us who formed Regeneration International were very aware of the way the large agribusiness corporations hijacked the term sustainable to the point is was meaningless. We were also aware of how they are trying to hijack the term of agroecology, especially through the United Nations systems and in some parts of Europe, Africa and Latin America where a little biodiversity is sprinkled as greenwash over agricultural systems that still use toxic synthetic pesticides and water soluble chemical fertilizers.

Similarly we have been concerned about the way organic agriculture standards and systems have been hijacked by industrial agribusiness as previously stated in the above section.

The critical issue is how do we engage with agribusiness in a way that can change their systems in a positive way as proposed in Organic 3.0? Many of the corporations that are adopting regenerative systems are improving their soil organic matter levels using systems such as cover crops. They are also implementing programs that reduce toxic chemical inputs and improving environmental outcomes. These actions should be seen as positive changes in the right direction. They are a start – not an end point. They need to be seen as part of an ongoing process to become fully regenerative.

There are also corporations that are rebranding their herbicide sprayed GMO no-till systems as regenerative. These corporations and systems are being called out as Degenerative because they are not Regenerative.

The Concept of Degeneration to call out Greenwashing

The opposite of regenerative is degenerative. By definition, agricultural systems that are using degenerative practices and inputs that damage the environment, soil, and health, such as synthetic toxic pesticides, synthetic water soluble fertilizers, and destructive tillage systems, cannot be considered regenerative, and should not use the term. They must be called out as degenerative.

Regenerative and Organic based on Agroecology – the path forward

From the perspective Regeneration International, all agricultural systems should be regenerative and organic using the science of agroecology.

Bob Rodale observed that an ecosystem will naturally regenerate once the disturbance stops. Consequently, regenerative agriculture, working with nature, not only maintains resources, it improves them.

Regeneration should be seen as a way to determine how to improve systems and to determine what practices are acceptable and what are degenerative and therefore unacceptable. The criteria to analyze this must be based on the Four Principles of Organic Agriculture. These principles are clear and effective ways to decide what practices are regenerative and what are degenerative.

Consequently, the four principles of organic agriculture are seen as consistent and applicable to Regenerative Agriculture.

Health

Organic agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible.

Ecology

Organic agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.

Fairness

Organic agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities.

Care

Organic agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment.

Why focus on Regenerative Agriculture?

The majority of the world’s population are directly or indirectly dependant on agriculture. Agricultural producers are amongst the most exploited, food and health insecure, least educated and poorest people on our planet, despite producing most of the food we eat.

Agriculture in its various forms has the most significant effect on land use on the planet. Industrial agriculture is responsible for most of the environmental degradation, forest destruction, toxic chemicals in our food and environment and a significant contributor, up to 50%, to the climate crisis. The degenerative forms of agriculture are an existential threat to us and most other species on our planet. We have to regenerate agriculture for social, environmental, economic and cultural reasons.

Why focus on the Soil and Soil Organic Matter?

The soil is fundamental to all terrestrial life of this planet. Our food and biodiversity start with the soil. The soil is not dirt – it is living, breathing and teeming with life. The soil microbiome is the most complex and richest area of biodiversity on our planet. The area with the greatest biodiversity is the rhizosphere, the region around roots of plants.

Plants feed the soil microbiome with the molecules of life that they create through photosynthesis. These molecules are the basis of organic matter – carbon based molecules  – that all life on earth depends on. Organic matter is fundamental to all life and soil organic matter is fundamental to life in the soil.

Farming practices that increase soil organic matter (SOM) increase soil fertility, water holding capacity, pest and disease resilience and thus the productivity of agricultural systems. Because SOM comes from carbon dioxide fixed through photosynthesis, increasing SOM can have a significant impact in reversing the climate crisis by drawing down this greenhouse gas.

The fact is our health and wealth comes from the soil.

Regenerative agriculture is now being used as an umbrella term for the many farming systems that use techniques such as longer rotations, cover crops, green manures, legumes, compost and organic fertilizers to increase SOM. These include: organic agriculture, agroforestry, agroecology, permaculture, holistic grazing, sylvopasture, syntropic farming and many other agricultural systems that can increase SOM. SOM is an important proxy for soil health – as soils with low levels are not healthy.

However, our global regeneration movement is far more than this.

Regenerating our Degenerated Planet and Societies – Our Regeneration Revolution

We have a lot of work to do. We are currently living well beyond our planetary boundaries and extracting far more than our planet can provide. As Dr Vandana Shiva puts it: “Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the climate crisis, and the crisis of democracy.”

According to Bob Rodale, regenerative organic agriculture systems are those that improve the resources they use, rather than destroying or depleting them. It is a holistic systems approach to farming that encourages continual innovation for environmental, social, economic, and spiritual wellbeing.

We must reverse the Climate Crisis, Migration Crisis, Biodiversity Crisis, Health Crisis, Food Crisis, Gender Crisis, Media Crisis, War Crisis, Land Grabbing Crisis, Racism Crisis, Democracy Crisis and Planetary Boundary Crisis so that we can regenerate our planet and our descendants can have a better and fairer world.

The vast majority of the destruction of biodiversity, the greenhouse gases, pesticides, endocrine disrupters, plastics, poverty, hunger, poor nutrition are directly caused by the billionaire corporate cartels and their obscene greed aided by their morally corrupt cronies. We need to continue to call them out for their degenerative practices.

More importantly; we need to build the new regenerative system that will replace the current degenerate system.

We have more than enough resources for everyone to live a life of wellbeing. The world produces around 3 times more food than we need. We have unfair, exploitative and wasteful systems that need to be transformed and regenerated.

We need to regenerate our societies so we must be proactive in ensuring that others have access to land, education, healthcare, income, the commons, participation, inclusion and empowerment. This must include women, men and youths across all ethnic and racial groups.

We must take care of each other and regenerate our planet. We must take control and empower ourselves to be the agents of change. We need to regenerate a world based on the Four Principles of Organic Agriculture: Health, Ecology Fairness and Care.

Ronnie Cummins, one of our founders, wrote: “Never underestimate the power of one individual: yourself. But please understand, at the same time, that what we do as individuals will never be enough. We’ve got to get organized and we’ve got to help others, in our region, in our nation, and everywhere build a mighty Green Regeneration Movement. The time to begin is now.”

 

Andre Leu is the International Director for Regeneration International. To sign up for RI’s email newsletter, click here.

Mercola Fights for Regenerative Agriculture by Supporting Biodynamic Farmers

CAPE CORAL, Fla. (June 24, 2021) – Leaders in natural health with a legacy rooted in sustainability, Dr. Mercola and his team promote the future of regenerative agriculture by working with biodynamic farmers to offer Demeter Certified Biodynamic® products in more categories than any other U.S. brand.
 
Demeter Certified Biodynamic®, the world’s oldest ecological certification, is the conscious, holistic way of farming that elevates the organic standards on regenerative agriculture by using a soil-first approach.
 
“Restoring our soil improves the overall quality of our food, which naturally drives progress toward biodiversity and a more regenerative future,” says Steve Rye, Mercola CEO. “Our team is dedicated to building relationships with family farmers from across the world to restore agricultural communities and environmental resilience.”
 
Mercola supports the success of biodynamic farms – across five continents, in eight countries – by paying farmers a premium price for their harvests.
 
“Through regenerative agriculture, we are able to bring excess carbon from the air and put it back into the ground where it can be utilized to grow better crops and preserve more water,” says Ryan Boland, Mercola Chief Business Officer. “The biodynamic standard of farming reduces carbon emissions, improves water quality and promotes climate health all while producing nutrient-rich foods. We can heal the planet through agriculture – it all starts with soil.” 
 
The rich, nutritious foods harvested from these farmers make up Solspring®, Mercola’s authentic food brand that offers unique Demeter Certified Biodynamic® and organic foods – like olive oil from 100-year-old trees found in the Kalamata region of Greece, vinegars and tomato sauces sourced from 40-year-old farms in the Modena region of Italy, and more – all in a variety of fresh, full-bodied flavors. The Dr. Mercola brand also initiated the first-ever standards for Demeter Certified Biodynamic® supplements and currently has six available.
 
Dr. Mercola is amongst the original supporters of regenerative agriculture with his passionate dedication starting nearly a decade ago when he helped pioneer the Non-GMO movement. He assisted in funding the addition of Proposition 37 to the ballot during the 2012 California statewide election, which required the labeling of genetically engineered food. Most recently, he has funded the Billion Agave Project by Regeneration International, which is a game-changing ecosystem-regeneration strategy that combines the growing of agave plants and nitrogen-fixing companion tree species, such as mesquite, with holistic rotational grazing of livestock for a high-biomass, high forage-yielding system that works well even on degraded, semi-arid lands.
 
Mercola.com is a natural health website dedicated to helping nearly ten million monthly readers improve their health with research-proven nutritional, lifestyle and exercise principles. Using a holistic approach for optimal health and wellness, Dr. Mercola has been a trusted source of natural health information for more than 20 years. Together with his team, they deliver the highest quality supplements, biodynamic and organic foods, and personal care products for your health, home and pet through the online store – Mercola Market. Visit mercolamarket.com to browse more than 1,000 premium products that help Take Control of Your Health®. For the most up-to-date health news and information, visit mercola.com and subscribe to the daily newsletter.
 

RI’s Response to The Ecologist’s “The Regenerative Ranching Racket”

Brendan Montague,

Editor of The Ecologist, at brendan@theecologist.org

Re: The regenerative ranching racket by Spencer Roberts, June 14, 2021

 

Dear Brendan,

 

The credibility of the Ecologist is being seriously questioned when it engages in deliberate fraud and makes false claims in order to try to discredit the fastest growing agricultural movement in the world.

Your journalist conducted outright fraud and lied when registering a false farm on our Farm Map and openly admits this. He further deliberately misrepresented the purpose of our Farm Map.

The Farm Map is a free service that connects thousands of farmers around the world to hundreds of thousands of potential customers. It is a self-regulating service not a certification system. Customers can let us know if farms are making false claims and we can remove them from the map. This service is particularly important in the developing world where farmers are the lowest socioeconomic group, in part, due to not being paid fairly for what they produce.

The same journalist that openly lies and commits fraud, then goes on to try and discredit various leaders of the global regeneration movement. We have the verified published data to show that these farmers and their various systems sequester more CO2 out of the atmosphere  than they emit. Unlike industrial farming which, depending on the methodologies used, accounts for up to 50% of global emissions, regenerative agriculture has solid published science to show that it sequesters more CO2 than it emits. We can change agriculture from being a major problem to becoming a major solution for the climate crisis.

32 countries, many regions, UNFAO, IFAD, GEF, CGIAR and hundreds of NGOs support changing farming from being a major CO2 emitter to becoming a major mitigator of CO2 by storing it in soil as soil organic matter. They have signed on to the 4 for 1000 initiative that was launched by the French Government at the Paris Climate Change meeting Dec. 2015. The UNFCCC recognizes this initiative as part of the Lima – Paris accord in the Paris agreement.

Industrial agriculture in its various forms has the most significant effect on land use on the planet. It is responsible for most of the environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, forest destruction, toxic chemicals in our food and environment and a significant contributor, up to 50%, to the climate crisis. The degenerative forms of agriculture are an existential threat to us and most other species on our planet. We have to regenerate agriculture for social, environmental, economic and cultural reasons and that is exactly what we in the global regenerative movement are doing.

 

Yours Faithfully,

 

André Leu, International Director,  June 19, 2021

World Bee Day: No Pollination, No Life

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On May 20 we celebrate World Bee Day. Bees, like other pollinators, play a key role in making life possible on our planet.

Without pollination there is no life

It is known that 75 percent of the world’s crops depend on pollinators; without them, most of the fruits, flowers, and seeds that we know would not exist. Without pollinators, we would not witness the diversity we still enjoy today, despite the great damage that humans have caused to landscapes and ecosystems. The ecosystem service provided by bee pollination and other pollinators is crucial and immeasurable.

There are approximately 20,000 species of pollinating wild bees distributed throughout the world —except for Antarctica—and approximately 1,800 of these species live in Mexico, the second country with the largest diversity of bees in the world after the United States 1.

Beekeeping practices with “domesticated” bees are very diverse and vary from region to region: from stingless bees in Mexico and Guatemala to the practices of the Gurung, collectors of hallucinogenic honey from the Himalayas.

Pollinators’ life under threat

Pollinators in general, and Apis mellifera in particular, which is the best known bee species for giving us honey, pollen, propolis and other by-products, are under threat.

The deterioration of bee colonies is directly related to degenerative agricultural practices.

Industrial agriculture leads to loss of habitat due to deforestation, monocultures that threaten biodiversity, and the use of pesticides. On top of this, stressors caused by the climate crisis are also greatly affecting bee colonies’ survival. A phenomenon that is becoming more and more common is Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Although we usually hear about the effect of CCD on domestic honey bees, CCD is also devastating wild bee populations.

For beekeepers, the evidence of collapse is easily visible when they open the beehive box: hives have less and less population or are even uninhabited, as if bees had fled. It is also possible to see worker bees return to the entrance of the hive lost and disoriented, walking in circles, in some cases not even recognizing their own hive.

More and more traces of pesticides are found in pollen and in the hives themselves, in particular neonicotinoids, which affect the central nervous system of the insects and cause disorientation.

Bees are directly poisoned by these pesticides and their immune systems weaken, making them more susceptible to pathogens such as mites, bacteria, fungi and viruses which, even though they have always existed, are now growing in alarming numbers.

Real or adulterated honey?

Along with coffee and olive oil, honey is one of the most adulterated food products in the world. Beekeepers in Mexico who practice natural and regenerative beekeeping, respecting the cycles of the hive organism and its vital stages, are affected by a drastic drop in honey prices as a result of the commercialization of adulterated honeys. This causes unfair competition and a collapse in the price of honey both in the domestic and export markets, and it particularly affects those who practice agroecological and regenerative beekeeping. Adulterated honey is made from corn and cane syrups.

This “honey” (we use quotation marks because it is far from being honey) lacks the nutrients and properties of real honey, which is high in minerals, vitamins and trace elements, and has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and soothing properties.

China is directly involved in adulteration of honey in Mexico and around the world. According to FAO, in the last fifteen years, China has increased honey production by 88% due to an increase in external demand. However, the number of hives in China for the same period only increased by 21%. The large increase in honey production and the comparably much more modest increase in the number of hives is striking.

Honey labelling is often not very transparent. Unless its ingredients include glucose or high fructose syrup, additives used to increase its volume, prevent it from solidifying and increase production, it is difficult to recognize the adulteration process with the naked eye and without performing a quality test. 

Another way to adulterate the honey and confuse the consumer is to mix different types of honey (different in their origin, not in their flowering) and not specify its source, or directly lie about the real origin.

There are, however, some home tests that can help: 

  • If you put the honey on a spoon or on your finger and it runs off, then it is definitely adulterated.
  • If you put the honey in a glass of water and it dilutes, it is most likely adulterated. Real honey would go to the bottom of the glass.
  • With the passage of time, real honey will crystallize and will not remain liquid. This is a key indicator of whether or not it has been adulterated.

The solution: awareness and acting consciously

First of all, you have to understand that real honey is expensive. The high price tag reflects the effort and dedication that the beekeeper has to put in to produce honey in an honest and regenerative way, but in fact, it should be even more expensive if we consider all the effort the bee puts into producing honey.

On average, to produce a kilo of honey requires the work of about 2,500 bees. Each bee will have to fly up to 60 kilometers a day to find suitable flowers and will do so for around twenty-one days, sucking nectar from six hundred flowers.

When you understand all that goes into honey production, it becomes clear that buying a kilo of honey for a dollar is nonsense. The price of honey in Mexico and in other parts of the world has decreased due to the proliferation of adulterated honeys, as we mentioned before. It is crucial to buy honey directly from local producers and beekeepers, or buy certified honeys, understanding that the price you pay is directly proportional to its nutritional value and that it supports the beekeeper who practices fair and regenerative beekeeping.

Stricter regulations should also be promoted not only in terms of labelling, but also quality control and traceability of honey through its pollen.

It is also essential to be aware of the impact that the use of pesticides has on bees and to support campaigns to ban them, facilitating the conservation and restoration of ecosystems for bees and other pollinators.

We invite you to continue exploring this topic. You can find more concrete actions on the Save the Bees Campaign, an initiative of the Organic Consumers Association.

1 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982220315967

Ercilia Sahores is the Latin America Director of RI. To sign up for RI’s email newsletter, click here.

Hope Below Our Feet

Peer-Reviewed Publications on Well-Managed Grazing as a Means of Improving Rangeland Ecology, Building Soil Carbon, and Mitigating Global Warming

Prepared by Soil4Climate Inc.

Updated May 2021

Left: Soil with approximately 7% soil organic matter at North Dakota farmer Gabe Brown’s holistically managed ranch. Top right: Kroon family holistically managed ranch on left side of fence, Karoo region, South Africa, with livestock density about 4X that of the neighbor’s ranch on right side of fence. Bottom right: Holistically managed herd on Maasai lands in Kenya. (Top right photo by Kroon family. Left and bottom right photos by Seth J. Itzkan.)

Accelerating regenerative grazing to tackle farm, environmental, and societal challenges in the upper Midwest

2021 Viewpoint by Spratt et al. in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation defines “regenerative grazing” as a “win-win-win” component of “regenerative agriculture” that “uses soil health and adaptive livestock management principles to improve farm profitability, human and ecosystem health, and food system resiliency.”

Spratt et al. 2021, doi:10.2489/jswc.2021.1209A

https://www.jswconline.org/content/jswc/76/1/15A.full.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expanding grass-based agriculture on marginal land in the U.S. Great Plains: The role of management intensive grazing

2021 paper by Wang et al. in Land Use Policy finds that the adoption of management intensive grazing (MIG) is a key factor for restoring marginal croplands to permanent grassland cover to enhance environmental benefits across the Great Plains from a social perspective. It also notes that compared to conventional tillage-based crop production, grass-based agriculture can provide substantially more ecosystem benefits and that management intensive grazing (MIG) offers the potential to enhance grassland resilience, thereby increasing the profitability of grass-based agriculture.

Tong Wang, Hailong Jin, Urs Kreuter, Richard Teague,Expanding grass-based agriculture on marginal land in the U.S. Great Plains: The role of management intensive grazing, Land Use Policy, Volume 104, 2021,105155,ISSN 0264-8377, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2020.105155.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264837720324935

Adaptive multi-paddock grazing enhances soil carbon and nitrogen stocks and stabilization through mineral association in southeastern U.S. grazing lands

2021 paper by Mosier et al. in Journal of Environmental Management finds that adaptive multi-paddock grazing (AMP) increases both soil carbon and soil nitrogen stocks when compared with conventional grazing (CG). Specifically, carbon stocks were increased 13% and nitrogen stocks 9%.  It concludes, “Findings show that AMP grazing is a management strategy to sequester C and retain N.”

Mosier S, Apfelbaum S, Byck P, Calderon F, Teague R, Thompson R, Francesca Cotrufo M, Adaptive multi-paddock grazing enhances soil carbon and nitrogen stocks and stabilization through mineral association in southeastern U.S. grazing lands, Journal of Environmental Management, Volume 288, 2021, 112409, ISSN 0301-4797, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2021.112409 

Ecosystem Impacts and Productive Capacity of a Multi-Species Pastured Livestock System

2020 paper by Rowntree et al. documents the soil carbon increases from “holistic planned grazing” in a multi-species pasture rotation (MSPR) system on the USDA-certified organic White Oak Pastures farm in Clay County, Georgia. Over 20 years, the farm sequestered an average of 2.29 metric tonnes of carbon per hectare per year (2.29 Mg C/ha/yr).  The paper also shows that the area required to produce food in this regenerative way was 2.5 times that of conventional farming (which would have resulted in soil degradation and toxic chemicals impact). It notes that production efficiency comes at a cost of “land-use tradeoffs” that  must be taken into consideration.

Rowntree JE, Stanley PL, Maciel ICF, Thorbecke M, Rosenzweig ST, Hancock DW, Guzman A and Raven MR (2020) Ecosystem Impacts and Productive Capacity of a Multi-Species Pastured Livestock System. Front. Sustain. Food Syst. 4:544984. doi: 10.3389/fsufs.2020.544984

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2020.544984/full

Climate change mitigation as a co-benefit of regenerative ranching: insights from Australia and the United States

2020 paper in Interface Focus finds that “‘Managed grazing’ is gaining attention for its potential to contribute to climate change mitigation by reducing bare ground and promoting perennialization, thereby enhancing soil carbon sequestration (SCS).” The paper explores principles and practices associated with the larger enterprise of ‘regenerative ranching’ (RR), which, it states, “includes managed grazing but infuses the practice with holistic decision-making.” It argues that the holistic framework is appealing “due to a suite of ecological, economic and social benefits” and notes that climate change mitigation a “co-benefit.”

Gosnell H, Charnley S, Stanley P. 2020 Climate change mitigation as a co-benefit of regenerative ranching: insights from Australia and the United States. Interface Focus 10: 20200027. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsfs.2020.0027

A half century of Holistic Management: what does the evidence reveal?

2020 paper in Agriculture and Human Values provides a meta-analysis of Holistic Management (HM) considering “epistemic”  differences between disciplines associated with the agricultural sciences. It concludes that the way to resolve the controversy over HM is to “research, in partnership with ranchers, rangeland social-ecological systems in more holistic, integrated ways.” This broader approach to research, it argues, can account for “the full range of human experience, co-produce new knowledge, and contribute to social-ecological transformation.”

Gosnell, Hannah & Grimm, Kerry & Goldstein, Bruce. (2020). A half century of Holistic Management: what does the evidence reveal?. Agriculture and Human Values. 10.1007/s10460-020-10016-w. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10460-020-10016-w

Soil greenhouse gas emissions as impacted by soil moisture and temperature under continuous and holistic planned grazing in native tallgrass prairie. 

2020 paper in Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment finds that holistic planned grazing protocols, used in adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) management, had superior ecological performance in a tallgrass prairie region when compared with high-density continuous  grazing and medium-density continuous grazing systems. Results demonstrate AMP grazing had lower soil temperature, higher soil moisture, and lower N2O and CH4 emissions.

Dowhower, S. L., Teague, W. R., Casey, K. D., & Daniel, R. (2020). Soil greenhouse gas emissions as impacted by soil moisture and temperature under continuous and holistic planned grazing in native tallgrass prairie. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 287, 106647. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2019.106647

Impacts of holistic planned grazing with bison compared to continuous grazing with cattle in South Dakota shortgrass prairie

2019 paper in Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment demonstrates that Adaptive Multi-paddock (AMP) grazing increases fine litter cover, water infiltration, forage biomass and soil carbon stocks in a comparison with heavy continuous grazing (HCG) on shortgrass prairie of the Northern Great Plains of North America. 

Hillenbrand, M., Thompson, R., Wang, F., Apfelbaum, S., & Teague, R. (2019). Impacts of holistic planned grazing with bison compared to continuous grazing with cattle in South Dakota shortgrass prairie. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 279, 156–168. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2019.02.005

 

Simulating the influence of integrated crop-livestock systems on water yield at watershed scale

2019 paper in the Journal of Environmental Management shows that Integrated crop-livestock (ICL) systems have superior water retention (reduction in “water yields”) than in crops systems without a livestock grazing rotation. 

Pérez-Gutiérrez, J. D., & Kumar, S. (2019). Simulating the influence of integrated crop-livestock systems on water yield at watershed scale. Journal of Environmental Management, 239, 385–394. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2019.03.068

 

 

 

 

Impacts of soil carbon sequestration on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions in Midwestern USA beef finishing systems

2018 Michigan State University study in Agricultural Systems finds 1.5 metric tons of carbon per acre per year drawdown via adaptive multi-paddock grazing, more than enough to offset all greenhouse gas emissions associated with the beef finishing phase.

Stanley, P. L., Rowntree, J. E., Beede, D. K., DeLonge, M. S., & Hamm, M. W. (2018). Impacts of soil carbon sequestration on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions in Midwestern USA beef finishing systems. Agricultural Systems, 162, 249-258. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2018.02.003

The effect of Holistic Planned Grazing™ on African rangelands: a case study from Zimbabwe

2018 paper in African Journal of Range & Forage Science finds positive long-term effects on ecosystem services (soils and vegetation) for Holistic Planned Grazing (HPG) and shows this approach enhancing the sustainability of livestock and wildlife.

Peel, M., & Stalmans, M. (2018). The effect of Holistic Planned Grazing™ on African rangelands: a case study from Zimbabwe. African Journal of Range & Forage Science, 35(1), 23-31. doi:10.2989/10220119.2018.1440630 https://doi.org/10.2989/10220119.2018.1440630

Enhancing soil organic carbon, particulate organic carbon and microbial biomass in semi-arid rangeland using pasture enclosures

2018 study in BMC Ecology demonstrates that controlling livestock grazing through the establishment of pasture enclosures is the key strategy for enhancing multiple ecological indicators including total soil organic carbon, and that “the establishment of enclosures is an effective restoration approach to restore degraded soils in semi-arid rangelands.” Other improved indicators include particulate organic carbon, microbial biomass carbon, and microbial biomass nitrogen. 

Oduor, C.O., Karanja, N.K., Onwonga, R.N. et al. Enhancing soil organic carbon, particulate organic carbon and microbial biomass in semi-arid rangeland using pasture enclosures. BMC Ecol 18, 45 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12898-018-0202-z

Grasslands may be more reliable carbon sinks than forests in California

2018 paper in Environmental Research Letters finds that California grasslands are a more resilient carbon sink than forests in response to 21st century changes in climate. The paper also notes that, in data compilations, herbivory has been shown to increase grassland C sequestration rates.

Dass, P., Houlton, B. Z., Wang, Y., & Warlind, D. (2018). Grasslands may be more reliable carbon sinks than forests in California. Environmental Research Letters, 13(7), 074027. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aacb39

https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aacb39

 

The role of ruminants in reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint in North America

2016 Texas A&M study in Journal of Soil and Water Conservation finds 1.2 metric tons of carbon per acre per year drawdown via adaptive multi-paddock grazing and the drawdown potential of North American pasturelands is 800 million metric tons of carbon per year. 

Teague, W. R., Apfelbaum, S., Lal, R., Kreuter, U. P., Rowntree, J., Davies, C. A., R. Conser, M. Rasmussen, J. Hatfield, T. Wang, F. Wang, Byck, P. (2016). The role of ruminants in reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint in North America. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 71(2), 156-164. doi:10.2489/jswc.71.2.156 http://www.jswconline.org/content/71/2/156.full.pdf+html

 

 

 

Potential mitigation of midwest grass-finished beef production emissions with soil carbon sequestration in the United States of America

2016 paper in Journal on Food, Agriculture & Society finds that where soil carbon sequestration is included in a life cycle assessment of Midwest grass-finished beef production systems, such systems can be overall carbon sinks.

Rowntree, J., Ryals, R., Delonge, M., Teague, R. W., Chiavegato, M., Byck, P., . . . Xu, S. (2016). Potential mitigation of midwest grass-finished beef production emissions with soil carbon sequestration in the United States of America. Future of Food: Journal on Food, Agriculture & Society, 4(3), 8. https://asu.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/potential-mitigation-of-midwest-grass-finished-beef-production-em

Emerging land use practices rapidly increase soil organic matter

2015 University of Georgia study in Nature Communications finds 3 metric tons of carbon per acre per year drawdown following a conversion from row cropping to regenerative grazing.

Machmuller, M. B., Kramer, M. G., Cyle, T. K., Hill, N., Hancock, D., & Thompson, A. (2015). Emerging land use practices rapidly increase soil organic matter. Nature Communications, 6, 6995. doi:10.1038/ncomms7995 https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms7995

 

 

 

 

GHG Mitigation Potential of Different Grazing Strategies in the United States Southern Great Plain

2015 paper in Sustainability finds that a conversion from heavy continuous to multi-paddock grazing on cow-calf farms in the US southern Great Plains can result in a carbon sequestration rate in soil of 2 tonnes per hectare per year or approximately 0.89 tonnes per acre per year. In a sensitivity analysis that accounts for farm animal emissions, this sequestration in soil is sufficient to make the farm a net carbon sink for decades.

Wang, T., Teague, W., Park, S., & Bevers, S. (2015). GHG Mitigation Potential of Different Grazing Strategies in the United States Southern Great Plains. Sustainability, 7(10), 13500. Retrieved from http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/7/10/13500

 

 

 

 

 

 

Global Cooling by Grassland Soils of the Geological Past and Near Future

2013 paper in Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences by University of Oregon Department of Geological Sciences professor Gregory J. Retallack shows the co-evolution of ruminants and grassland soils (mollisols) was essential for geologic cooling of the past 20 million years – leading to the conditions suitable for human evolution – and can be an instrumental part of the necessary cooling in the future to reverse global warming.

Retallack, G. (2013). Global Cooling by Grassland Soils of the Geological Past and Near Future (Vol. 41, pp. 69–86): Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-earth-050212-124001

Sustainability of holistic and conventional cattle ranching in the seasonally dry tropics of Chiapas, Mexico

2013 study in Agricultural Systems finds practitioners of Holistic Management in the dry tropics region of Chiapas, Mexico have denser grass, deeper topsoil, and more earthworms in their pastures than conventional graziers, and that “Holistic management is leading to greater ecological and economic sustainability.”

Ferguson, B. G., Diemont, S. A. W., Alfaro-Arguello, R., Martin, J. F., Nahed-Toral, J., Álvarez-Solís, D., & Pinto-Ruíz, R. (2013). Sustainability of holistic and conventional cattle ranching in the seasonally dry tropics of Chiapas, Mexico. Agricultural Systems, 120, 38-48. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2013.05.005

Tall Fescue Management in the Piedmont: Sequestration of Soil Organic Carbon and Total Nitrogen

2012 study in Soil Science Society of America Journal demonstrates improved grazing management systems can have an enormous benefit on surface soil fertility restoration of degraded soils in the southeastern United States, and managed grazing can sequester 1.5 metric tons of carbon per hectare per year.

Franzluebbers, A. J., D. M. Endale, J. S. Buyer, and J. A. Stuedemann. 2012. Tall Fescue Management in the Piedmont: Sequestration of Soil Organic Carbon and Total Nitrogen. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 76:1016-1026. doi:10.2136/sssaj2011.0347 

Effect of grazing on soil-water content in semiarid rangelands of southeast Idaho

2011 paper in Journal of Arid Environments finds simulated holistic planned grazing (SHPG) had significantly higher percent volumetric-water content (%VWC) after two years of comparison with similar ranch plots using rest-rotation (RESTROT), and total rest (TREST) systems in semiarid rangelands of southeast Idaho. Measured percent volumetric-water content were 45.8 for SHPG and 34.7 and 29.8 for RESTROT and TREST, respectively.

Weber, K. T., & Gokhale, B. S. (2011). Effect of grazing on soil-water content in semiarid rangelands of southeast Idaho. Journal of Arid Environments, 75(5), 464-470. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2010.12.009

 

 

Grazing management impacts on vegetation, soil biota and soil chemical, physical and hydrological properties in tall grass prairie

2011 paper in Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment demonstrates multi-paddock grazing of the type recommended by Allan Savory, and representative of Holistic Management, led to improved soil health indicators including higher bulk density, greater infiltration rate, and increased fungal/bacterial ratios when compared with continuous single-paddock grazing, typical of conventional practice. Soil organic matter averaged 3.61% in the multi-paddock ranches, compared to 2.4% for heavy continuous, single-paddock grazing.

Teague, W. R., Dowhower, S. L., Baker, S. A., Haile, N., DeLaune, P. B., & Conover, D. M. (2011). Grazing management impacts on vegetation, soil biota and soil chemical, physical and hydrological properties in tall grass prairie. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 141(3–4), 310-322. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2011.03.009

Benefits of multi-paddock grazing management on rangelands: Limitations of experimental grazing research and knowledge gaps

2008 chapter in “Grasslands: Ecology, Management, and Restoration,” published by H. G. Schroder, finds in a comprehensive literature review that multi-paddock rotational grazing produces superior results for grassland ecology when compared to conventional continuous grazing. It also finds that misunderstandings exist in the management techniques needed to achieve these benefits and in the scientific protocols required to assess them. 

Teague, W. R., Provenza, F., Norton, B., Steffens, T., Barnes, M., Kothmann, M. M., & Roath, R. (2008). Benefits of multi-paddock grazing management on rangelands: Limitations of experimental grazing research and knowledge gaps. In H. G. Schroder (Ed.), Grasslands: Ecology, Management, and Restoration (pp. 41-80): Nova Science Publishers, NY. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/285918973_Benefits_of_multi-paddock_grazing_management_on_rangelands_Limitations_of_experimental_grazing_research_and_knowledge_gaps

 

Considerations for the Biden Administration Regarding a National Carbon Farming Program

A national carbon farming program at the USDA level would be a tremendous leap forward with regards to incentivizing agricultural practices that can help mitigate climate change. However, the current primary focus on no-till and cover cropping is narrow in scope. While cover cropping is an extremely important and impactful agricultural practice, it is merely a part of a larger system needed to regenerate healthy soils on a nationwide basis.

Designing a Whole-System, Outcome-Based Approach

Rather than focus on single farming practice benefits, designing a whole-system approach will create synergy between practices and enterprises, and bring about significant soil carbon sequestration, GHG emissions reductions, and other ecological co-benefits. Fortunately, there are myriad other management interventions that the USDA can fold into their strategy to ensure that the agriculture sector maximizes its full potential in the fight against climate change.

In order for the Biden Administration to ensure that money spent on climate-related USDA incentive programs is supporting real net impact, these programs must be spurred by practice-based incentives that are holistic in scope and supported by comprehensive outcomes-based assessments.

Furthermore, these outcomes must be quantified by a hybrid approach that includes:

  • Ground-basedmonitoring,
  • Remotesensing,
  • Process-basedmodeling

In addition, outcomes must be assessed comprehensively, within the context of whole systems, throughout supply chains, and across all GHGs (including methane and nitrous oxide) and emissions scopes.

Integrating cover crops into a row crop system can:

  • Increase levels of soil organic carbon,
  • Increasesoilwaterinfiltrationandholdingcapacity,
  • Reducetheneedforsyntheticfertilizers.

However, the system where cover crops are adopted will dictate how these benefits are achieved.

Limitations of Current Soil Carbon Measurement Standards

For example, in annual row-crop systems that use conservation tillage and chemical no-till practices, research has demonstrated that gains in soil organic carbon in the top 20-30 cm of soil in these systems can be offset by losses in deeper layers, and therefore these practices are likely not as effective as previously understood (1,2).

It is now clear that the ability to monitor and model changes in SOC deeper in the soil profile is essential to assessing real outcomes. Thus, having the right kind of monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) strategy that can adequately and comprehensively assess the ecological, social, and economic impacts of a comprehensive, sector-wide incentive program is of the utmost importance.

Traditionally, carbon offset methodologies for the agriculture sector have relied solely on process-based modeling, the quantification standard in data-poor environments. However, process-based models are only as good as the ground truth data used to develop them.

The most widely used modeling tool to-date is the USDA’s COMET-Farm tool, which is designed to estimate GHG emissions and sequestration at field scale, based on management practices. While this tool has been developed over the course of decades, with data from dozens of research projects throughout the Midwest and Great Plains, it lacks the sophistication to adequately quantify outcomes.

The two most limiting factors of this particular model are its inability to estimate SOC sequestration below 20 centimeters (8 inches), and its inability to quantify the impacts of a broad spectrum of management practices related to cover cropping, grazing, and manure management (3). As a result, necessary practice and system innovation are not supported by these tools. Furthermore, there is a larger limitation with models in general, which is that their output is focused at field scale, and therefore excludes upstream and downstream impact.

In our opinion, the Biden Administration will face grave political consequences and fail to achieve its urgently needed climate goals in agriculture if it follows through with a narrowly-defined incentive program supported by inadequate quantification infrastructure.

Direct measurement of outcomes in an incentive program should be the holy grail.

The greatest challenge to direct measurement is decreasing the sampling burden enough while still capturing spatial and climatic variability. As satellite and ground-based sensor technology advances, the potential for adequately quantifying variability to support cost-effective sample stratification is significant (4,5).

In addition, as the development of process-based modeling must always be an ongoing project, satellite and ground-based sensors can continuously feed necessary ground truth to further advance the accuracy and sophistication of models, and to automate the model input process.

Proper Funding for Soil Health Measurement Technology is Key to Program Success

It is essential that the Biden Administration allocate funding to advance the state of the art of NASA’s Earth Observing System satellites, and to engage in public private partnerships with the world’s best satellite data providers, with the goal of enhancing our ability to leverage remote sensing as a means to monitor the ecological impacts of the agriculture sector. Note: Further efforts to develop and deploy earth observing satellite platforms should be focused on:

  • Advancing sensor technology,
  • Enhancing spatial and temporal resolution of satellite data,
  • Making data publicly available

This will allow for the necessary access to correlative datasets to further develop accurate monitoring platforms.

It is also essential that the USDA support the strategic deployment of sector-wide ground-based sensors, monitoring sites and stations across crop fields, CAFO facilities, and at points throughout critical watersheds facing immense pollution pressure (such as the Mississippi and Chesapeake Bay). This will serve to support the development of remote sensing and process-based modeling tools, and also to provide a critical feed-back system that can allow USDA program officials to conduct regular impact assessments based on directly-observed outcomes, and to more rapidly recalibrate the approach to management recommendations.

The current state of ground-based sensor technology, including in-situ soil and water monitoring systems, is such that national-scale monitoring can be rolled out with the necessary degree of standardization.

When considering the environmental impact of the agriculture sector in the United States, it is important to consider the extent to which agricultural enterprises have become consolidated, dis-integrated and specialized compared to a century ago. Therefore the sector as a whole should be considered as one large system, with one type of enterprise (i.e. grain) providing inputs that feed into another (i.e. livestock). In this holistic context, it is clear that the impact of a single management intervention in a certain sub-sector, such as cover-cropping, will be much less in the aggregate (or even fully offset) when measured against the impacts of other downstream sub-sectors, such as CAFO methane emissions.

Therefore, fully functioning incentive programs would be comprehensive and sector-wide, would facilitate GHG emissions reductions and atmospheric drawdown across supply chains, and would consider and quantify not only GHG emissions reductions and SOC sequestration, but also other forms of ecological impact related to water (6) and biodiversity, as well economic and social impact.

Expand and Fully Fund Conservation Programs – CRP and Regenerative Grazing

The expansion of existing USDA programs can also go a long way towards supporting a comprehensive carbon farming program, if high-level principles of regenerative organic agriculture are considered. These principles include biodiversity, tillage reduction, annual-perennial crop rotations, animal integration, aerobic manure management, natural fertility inputs, and protection of waterways.

One of the largest pieces of low-hanging fruit with regard to existing programs is the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). There are two simple ways in which CRP can support carbon farming in the U.S.:

1) Expanding the CRP budget to increase enrolled acres, and

2) Developing a grazing program on enrolled CRP land that establishes a supply chain between cow-calf operations grazing on public and private land in the western U.S., and CRP grazing permittees, which will have the effect of diverting animals from feedlots to pasture, which will increase domestic production of grass-fed beef, a market for which there is significant demand in this country that we are not currently meeting domestically.

This will also significantly decrease GHG emissions associated with feedlot production and crop production. In order to support a CRP grazing program, funding for fencing and water infrastructure could be met through expanding the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) budget. In addition, EQIP funding for cover crop seed and planting equipment, and composting infrastructure (7), will go a long way towards further reducing methane and nitrous oxide emissions associated with crop and livestock production. Direct coordination with USDA and the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service, in the form of rangeland management and rangeland health assessments, is also essential to supporting a national carbon farming program.

Healthy rangeland is a tremendous carbon sink, and presents perhaps one of the greatest opportunities in this country to sequester carbon in soils. The USDA must work with BLM and USFS to improve rangeland health assessments using satellite and ground-based monitoring (8), and to provide technical and financial support for improved rangeland management. This kind of monitoring approach will provide a comprehensive geospatial feedback mechanism that can help pinpoint best grazing management practices and support data-driven implementation.

The Biden Administration has a tremendous opportunity to deploy a robust carbon farming program across the United States, and can leverage many existing USDA programs in support of its goals. However, pains must be taken to ensure that the scope of such a program is sector-wide. This will ensure the full spectrum of opportunities to reduce emissions and sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide are on the table, so as to avoid perceptions of greenwashing and industry placation. Additional pains must be taken to include in this program the farmers and ranchers who have already taken financial risks by adopting and implementing best management practices absent any robust federal program to-date.

 

Matthew Sheffer is the Managing Director at Hudson Carbon.

References:

  1. 1.)  No-till and carbon stocks: Is deep soil sampling necessary? Insights from long-term experiments – Humberto Blanco-Canqui a, *, Charles Shapiro a, Paul Jasa b, Javed Iqbal a
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.still.2020.104840
  2. 2.)  Tillage and soil carbon sequestration—What do we really know? – John M. Baker a,b,*, Tyson E. Ochsner a,b, Rodney T. Venterea a,b, Timothy J. Griffis b
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2006.05.014
  3. 3.)  Comparison of COMET-Farm Model Outputs to Long-Term Soil Carbon Data at Stone House Farm – Matthew Sheffer, Mike Howardhttps://docs.google.com/document/d/1dVx_ICmMSKeiELIR00v6JHsJoBxABLu_WDyl0Chwick/edit?usp=sharing
  4. 4.)  A New Index for Remote Sensing of Soil Organic Carbon Based Solely on Visible Wavelengths – Evan A. Thaler* ,Isaac j.Larsen, Qian Yuhttps://doi.org/10.2136/sssaj2018.09.0318
  5. 5.)  Optimizing Stratification and Allocation for Design-Based Estimation of Spatial Means Using Predictions with Error

– J. J. De Gruitjter* B. Minasny A. B. McBratney

  1. 6.)  https://doi.org/10.1093/jssam/smu024Understanding the temporal behavior of crops using Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2-like data for agricultural applications – Amanda Veloso ⁎,1, Stéphane Mermoz, Alexandre Bouvet, Thuy Le Toan, Milena Planells, Jean-François Dejoux, Eric Ceschia
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2017.07.015
  2. 7.)  Compost: Enhancing the Value of Manure; An assessment of the environmental, economic, regulatory, and policy opportunities of increasing the market for manure compost – Sustainable Conservation, 2017 https://suscon.org/pdfs/compostreport.pdf

8.) Beyond Inventories: Emergence of a New Era in Rangeland Monitoring – Matthew O. Jones , David E. Naugle , Dirac Twidwell , Daniel R. Uden , Jeremy D. Maestas , Brady W. Allreda
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2020.06.009

We Need to Regenerate our Whole Planet on Earth Day

Leer en español aquí

In this era of the Anthropocene, in which human activities are the dominant forces that negatively affect the environment, the world is facing multiple environmental, social, and economic crises. These include the climate crisis, food insecurity, an epidemic of non-contagious chronic diseases, new pandemics of contagious diseases, wars, migration crises, ocean acidification, the collapse of whole ecosystems, the unsustainable extraction of resources, and the greatest extinction event in geological history.

Are we prepared to sustain a world where nearly a billion people do not have enough food to eat, a billion more are deficient in key nutrients and more than two billion are overweight because they have too much food? A world where the majority of people do not have access to adequate healthcare and education? A world where half the population face multiple forms of discrimination such as violence, land ownership, personal finances, education, control over their fertility, job promotions, representation on boards, government and leadership because of their gender? A world where persistent toxic chemicals are damaging all life on the planet including ours and our children? A world where the very basis of life, DNA, is being uncontrollably altered based on flawed science for the sake of the profits of billionaire poison cartels? Where there are continuous wars and conflicts. Where 1% control 99% of the world’s wealth and unfairly influences the political, social, health and environmental agendas to increase their power and wealth?

Simply being sustainable is not enough. Do we want to sustain the current status quo or do we want to improve and rejuvenate it? Regeneration improves systems.

We need to regenerate our societies so we must be proactive in ensuring that others have access to land, education, healthcare, income, the commons, participation, inclusion and empowerment. This must include women, men and youths across all ethnic and racial groups.

On Earth Day, Regeneration International, with our 360 partner organizations in almost 70 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania, North America and Europe, will continue to promote, facilitate and accelerate the global transition to regenerative food, farming and land management for the purpose of restoring climate stability, ending world hunger and rebuilding deteriorated social, ecological and economic systems.

Our vision to is to achieve a healthy global ecosystem in which practitioners of regenerative agriculture and land use, in concert with consumers, educators, business leaders and policymakers, cool the planet, nourish the world and restore public health, prosperity and peace on a global scale.

 

Andre Leu is the International Director for Regeneration International. To sign up for RI’s email newsletter, click here.