by Jesse Klein

The carbon offset market is inching its way onto the farm. Selling carbon credits to fund regenerative agriculture practices that sequester more soil while producing food has captured the imaginations of climate activists, corporations and farmers. And while selling carbon credits for agricultural practices has started on a few farms (usually backed by big consumer-packaged goods companies such as General Mills, Danone and Kellogg) an entire sector of farming has been left out of the conversation — produce.

“If you want to launch a carbon credit program, it makes sense to apply it on corn, soybean and wheat because those are millions of hectares [farmers] have,” said Guillermo Carvajal, vice president of sustainability at ProducePay, a platform that connects produce farmers with retailers. “When you go to produce you have more disseminated growers and crops, and that’s challenging [for carbon crediting], but it’s also a huge opportunity for the industry.”

Hence why ProducePay, together with Allcot, a carbon credit project developer, is launching a carbon offset program specifically for fruit and vegetable growers. Creating a financial incentive for growers to decarbonize their processes will help ProducePay tackle its own Scope 3 emissions by spinning down the emissions from its suppliers’ crops.

Creating carbon credits for produce growers requires a more nuanced approach than for the big grain, corn and soy crops. According to Carvajal, one farm can potentially grow different types of crops such as grapes, berries and asparagus, all in the same season, unlike the monocultural farms focusing on one of the big crops. The increased variety of fruits and vegetables  on produce farms inhibits straightforward sequestration plans and requires crop-specific regenerative practices, creating further barriers for the farms to increase scale with carbon credits.

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