Headlines and conversations about sustainable agriculture are everywhere. And yet, there are plenty of unknowns about how exactly farmers can take advantage of sustainability program incentives.
In the 2023 Bushel State of the Farm Report, over half of farmer respondents said they are already practicing no-till, showcasing a growing awareness and implementation of environmentally-friendly farming methods. However, only 10% said they are actively participating in sustainability or carbon programs, and a significant 60% expressed the need for more information to engage in such initiatives.
Nearly 50% of Bushel’s survey respondents said they turn to online research when looking for information on sustainability programs. But a quick Google search for “Carbon Credits for Farmers” shows a high number of options available but a lack of clarity as to what’s best for the farmer. Further, a recent USDA report outlined the barriers to entry for farmers signing up programs, including market confusion created by the growing number of agricultural carbon credit programs with varying requirements.
The same USDA report (section 6.1.3) emphasized the importance of record-keeping for farmers seeking sustainability opportunities. Specifically, the report noted:
- Record keeping and data collection requirements can present a barrier to participation in carbon markets where protocols require data collection to document ongoing activities as well as detailed historical production and management data.
- According to a 2022 survey and report by Trust in Food, nearly two-thirds of crop producers do not use a farm management software system to track practices, and instead rely on a patchwork of spreadsheets or paper records.
- Producers without accurate historical records for their practices or electronic site-specific data may not have the data necessary to meet requirements under certain protocols.
- While sustainability project developers can help with data management, core information like production practices (planting, harvesting, fertilizer application) need to be recorded by the producer.
Here are some key things to look for in a farm management software that make it easier to meet the requirements of sustainability programs:
- Permission-based: The data from your farm is your data. But if you want to enroll in a sustainability program, it may be worthwhile to share specific production records directly from your farm management software. Look for software with easy-to-use permission controls. Similarly, when evaluating sustainability programs, consider how easily they can digitally integrate with your software. Integrations can make enrollment and verification as easy as clicking a few buttons to digitally transfer permission-based information from your farm management software to your sustainability partner’s software program.
- Automated: Until recently, farm management software required farmers to sit in front of a computer and enter volumes of operational records. Now, integrations with farm equipment (e.g. John Deere Operations Center and Climate FieldView) automatically populate field activity records in the farm management software. you can easily share field-level data easily with the sustainability program.
- Accessible: Opt for software that provides mobile and desktop options. This flexibility ensures you can access your farm records and decision-making insights anytime, anywhere.
Bushel Farm can help. Visit bushelfarm.com to learn more.