CARGILL is offering South and eastern Australian canola growers the option to get paid $25 per hectare for taking part this season in its new SustainConnect sustainable agriculture program.
Growers enrolled in SustainConnect can deliver and sell their canola to any party, as the program has been introduced by Cargill to incentivise growers to build carbon insets into their program through a number of “interventions”.
“Changes made at the grassroots of our supply chains can deliver a significant impact in reducing emissions and building the resilience of our soils for the next generation,” Cargill environmental market lead Asia Pacific and China Ben Fargher said.
“We are actively working hand in hand with canola growers to lead the way, supporting them with tools, resources – and importantly, market access – to make the shift to sustainable agriculture.”
The initial list of interventions includes: no till; reduced till; cover crops; stubble retention, and the incorporation of legumes into rotations.
On the fertiliser front, recognised interventions are: split application, variable or reduced-rate application, and the substitution of synthetic with organic nitrogen.
Guidance from pilot
The introduction of SustainConnect follows a successful pilot program run with 20-25 Australian growers last season.
“Now we’re looking at working with hundreds of growers this year.”
Feedback from the pilot program has determined the types of intervention which could be included, with respect to Australia’s highly variable seasons, farming systems and soil types.
The cut-off for growers wishing to sign up to the SustainConnect program is March 31, a date selected to be close to but not on top of the opening of the planting window.
“We need to talk to our growers before they plant.”
The program requires growers to provide baseline data by March 31, and select paddocks and interventions for the crop they are about to grow.
Choosing which interventions to use is the choice of the grower.
“We know that growers will talk to their agronomists about it, and we do have some agronomic support available.”
Cargill has partnered with carbon-measurement business Regrow to measure, report and verify carbon outcomes using in-field data, remote sensing and crop and soil health modelling.
All growers enrolled with SustainConnect for the production year starting in April are scheduled to receive one quarter of the $25/ha owing to them in June, with the balance payable in the following June provided results from agreed interventions are met.
The program is available for the upcoming season to canola growers in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria, with Cargill looking to extend it into Western Australia in the not-too-distant future.
Mr Fargher said the list of interventions available to select was likely to grow as the number of enrolled growers expands.
Cargill is one of the world’s leading oilseed crushers, and in Australia crushes canola at plants in Newcastle, NSW, and Footscray, Vic.
It is also a major exporter of Australian canola to markets around the globe.
In a statement, Cargill said SustainConnect will open new revenue streams for growers in Australia and assist Cargill in catering to the rising demand from domestic and international customers for sustainable Australian canola.
“This is a genuine attempt by us to put in a new inset decarbonisation program, and we don’t want growers to think it locks them into selling to Cargill,” Mr Fargher said.
“We want to help them understand their greenhouse gas profile…and how we explain that to food and fuel customers.”
Mr Fargher said SustainConnect will help domestic and export customers reduce their Scope 3 emissions as consumers and stakeholders increasingly scrutinise the carbon footprint of what they are buying.
As an insetting program, SustainConnect differs markedly from Cargill’s RegenConnect program which launched in 2021 and is available to growers in North America and Europe.
RegenConnect focuses more on building soil carbon as a counter to climate change, whereas SustainConnect aims to reduce non-organic inputs into the cropping system.
“In Australia, there’s not as much opportunity for (building) soil carbon.
“To optimise fertiliser, drive yield, get a lower emissions profile, and get value for the grower – that’s where we think the action is.
“Growers have told us they are looking for sustainability programs that offer simplicity, transparency, and flexibility to suit their specific operations.
“We’ve taken this feedback and designed Cargill SustainConnect to address these needs.”
While many Australian canola growers are already adhering to International Sustainability & Carbon Certification requirements, these relate more to the farming entity growing the canola rather than the crop itself.
“This is not separate to ISCC canola; it’s layering on top of that certification.
“This is complementary to, not competing with, ISCC.”
“This is actually about the decarbonisation of emissions profiles.
“This is a carbon inset program on top of the ISCC program.”
Cargill is currently evaluating expanding the Cargill SustainConnect program to grains, with initial barley pilots already under way.
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