Land O'Lakes launches carbon-credits program for farmers

Feb 4 (Reuters) - U.S. farm cooperative Land O’Lakes launched a carbon credit generation and trading program on Thursday that it says will help crop farmers capitalize on rising demand for greenhouse gas emission credits while making farms more sustainable.

Agricultural companies have been launching green agriculture or carbon trading programs in recent months, pressured by environmentally conscious consumers and expectations of policies meant to counter climate change under the Biden administration.

Land O’Lakes subsidiary Truterra LLC unveiled its TruCarbon program, a collaboration with the Soil Health Institute. The companies have contracted to sell 100,000 metric tons of credits to technology giant Microsoft Corp.

TruCarbon represents the latest agriculture industry offering focused on combating climate change, joining agribusinesses such as Cargill Inc and crop input suppliers like Bayer AG.

Tapping mountains of farm data already being gathered by growers on the Truterra farm decision-making platform, the carbon program will help users gauge how environmentally friendly practices may impact the farm’s bottom line, Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford said.

Those changes could include planting an off-season “cover crop” to capture and store carbon, not tilling soils or lessening applications of fertilizers and farm chemicals.

Truterra will cover the cost of the soil testing required to enroll and will help farmers sell the credits they create, the companies said.

“It’s the next logical evolution. It recognizes the marketplace, the opportunity for farmers to diversify their revenue stream and at the same time improve the sustainability and the resilience of their own operations,” Ford said.

Farmers can expect to receive payments this summer of up to $20 per ton of carbon they sequester in the first tranche of credits, according to Land O’Lakes. Some can also tap their historical farm data to create additional credits for their prior five years of farming. (Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)