As a farmer-owned cooperative, Land O’Lakes, Inc. keeps an eye on the legislative issues that affect member-owners on federal and state levels. Land O’Lakes staff and member representatives have taken active roles in educating lawmakers about the issues affecting our industry at fly-ins or on-farm events both in their districts or in Washington D.C.
Our first priority is to advocate for legislation that works for farmers. But sometimes, we help identify solutions that give farmers flexibility to make changes that work best for them despite challenging legislative actions. The most recent examples involve Land O’Lakes’ and Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN’s responses to new conservation policies and regulations in key regions. The “cap-and-trade” program for carbon emissions in California, and the agricultural buffer law in Minnesota show how our farm-to-fork view helps us go to work for farmers.
California methane emissions
Last year, California lawmakers passed a bill related to short-lived climate pollutants (Senate Bill 32) requiring the state of California to achieve a 40 percent reduction–below the 1990 level—in methane, hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) and black carbon emissions by 2030. While we had concerns about the reduction overall, we worked with lawmakers to determine ways for the California agriculture community to meet these requirements.
In July, lawmakers voted to extend the existing “cap-and-trade” program for carbon emissions, which otherwise would have expired in 2020.
“We supported extending the existing cap-and-trade program as a means of providing a market-based system that incentivizes companies and producers to reduce emissions while giving them the flexibility to make changes that work best for them,” says Autumn Price, vice president of Government Relations at Land O’Lakes.” The program continues to facilitate methane reductions by prioritizing spending for initiatives have the potential to help drive environmental sustainability goals in a farm-friendly and economical manner.”
The Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP) is one of two programs designed to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. The program is providing $9-16 million dollars in grants (some up to $750,000) to California dairy and livestock operators to implement non-digester manure management practices that reduce their methane emissions. Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN is encouraging California member-owners to apply for program grants and are available to answer questions on the applications that are due Oct. 2.
We continue to monitor the regulatory landscape and advocate for changes that help the California agricultural community take a leadership role in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a productive and cost-effective manner.
Minnesota agricultural buffer
In 2015, Minnesota Governor Dayton signed a Buffer Law requiring a 50-foot buffer around all fields that drain to public waters. While intended to protect water quality, the legislation posed a challenge to farmers as they were being directed to take significant amounts of land out of production to comply.
In response, Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN launched a new conservation planning tool, Agren BufferBuilder, that offered farmers flexibility in complying with the law. After assessing both the law and the technology we had developed, Agren BufferBuilder was approved by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources as an alternative practice option under the Minnesota law.
The tool allows a conservation planner to custom-design crop field buffers to trap sediment and nutrients as water flows off a field. The tool uses site-specific soil information, 40 years of daily climate data and precise topography mapped by lasers to model the flow of water and sediment from a crop field. This technology identifies where there will and will not be a concentrated flow of water so farmers can strategically place buffers where they are needed. Farmers can install a variable-width buffer that achieves the same—or better—water quality protection using significantly less acreage than a uniform 50-foot buffer.
“Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN is excited to partner with the state to provide flexibility for farmers, while helping to enhance water quality at the same time,” stated Matt Carstens, senior vice president for Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN. “The Ag BufferBuilder tool helps enable farmers to utilize technology to the advantage of both their business and their local natural resources
By creating variable width buffers through the BufferBuilder tool, a farmer can preserve land in production and focus buffers in the areas that need them most.” The tool will be available through authorized Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN ag retailers who will deliver the conservation planning tool as a service to their growers. If you’re an ag retailer interested in the technology, contact Jason Weller to learn more about accessing it through Conservation Agronomy.
Be an advocate
Through Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, we help farmers optimize their agricultural production while also protecting our air, soil and water resources. Whether it’s through community partnerships, customer commitments or legislative efforts, we advocate for and identify opportunities that help farmers best manage their operations and meet sustainability goals in a common-sense and cost-effective way. If there are legislative discussions that could impact farm operations in your state, or if you’re involved in community partnerships that advance sustainability of our natural resources, contact the Land O’Lakes Government Relations and Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN teams to make sure it’s on our radar, and to see how you can advocate.