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Illinois Ag News Headlines
FBN, EDF Launch Operating Line of Credit to Incentivizes Regenerative Ag
Illinois Ag Connection - 01/13/2022

Farmers Business Network (FBN) and Environmental Defense Fund announced the launch of the FBN Regenerative Agriculture Finance Fund one of the first U.S. agricultural financing programs to reward farmers who meet soil health and nitrogen efficiency standards through access to lower rates and fees, as well as agronomic insights to optimize the on-farm benefits of regenerative practices.

RAFF credit lines will replace traditional operating loans with a one-year line of credit that includes a 0.5% discount from a farmer's base rate. To qualify, farmers must meet environmental eligibility requirements developed by EDF and backed by peer-reviewed scientific research, including nitrogen management and soil conservation standards.

"Regenerative practices can benefit farmers in many ways -- through improved soil health, lower fertilizer costs and resilient crop yields," said Steele Lorenz, head of FBN's Sustainable Business. "This new operating line will help make practice adoption more economically feasible and can be paired with other incentive programs such as cover crop cost share or supply chain premiums, ultimately making regenerative agriculture far more accessible to growers across the country."

Row crop agriculture contributes 5% of greenhouse gas emissions from the United States and is the largest emitter of nitrous oxide, a potent gas with 300 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide. Scientists estimate that a 21% reduction in row crop emissions is possible in the next 15 years through optimization of currently available technology, and up to a 71% reduction could be achieved through additional innovation.1

Agriculture is also one of the most vulnerable sectors to climate change. Regenerative agriculture practices provide an excellent opportunity for farms to build healthy soils, which can protect crops from variable rainfall.2 Taken together, practices that build soil health and reduce farm inputs have been shown to reduce farm costs and risks while protecting the long-term value of the land.3

"This fund is a giant leap forward in connecting the environmental and financial performance of farms and integrating the proven value of practices that reduce climate impacts and improve water quality into farm financing," said Maggie Monast, senior director of climate-smart agriculture at EDF. "The results of the pilot should allow FBN to make the case for rewarding farmers for environmental performance through their financing, at scale."

The $25 million pilot fund is currently enrolling 30-40 farmers growing a combination of corn, soybeans and/or wheat who will each receive one-year lines of credit of up to $5 million. The RAFF will originate loans from a diversity of farmers, including FBN's network of more than 33,000 members, and provide underwriting and monitoring for the portfolio at a discounted rate.

FBN's Gradable platform enables data collection at scale with proprietary technology and will validate regenerative farming practices through its sophisticated analysis techniques. Farmers will input data into FBN's Gradable platform, which also provides farmers with agronomic guidance to optimize farm production choices. Farmers must agree to provide production data for all enrolled fields for at least three crop years, but do not need to demonstrate a new practice to qualify. This means that farmers who have already invested in regenerative practices such as no-till, cover crops and optimized fertilizer use can participate.

Environmental Defense Fund will provide oversight related to the environmental criteria required for RAFF eligibility. The criteria are designed to be inclusive of farmers who grow corn, soy and wheat in a variety of geographies and who implement a variety of regenerative practices, while establishing a clear system for monitoring those practices and environmental outcomes, as well as measuring the success of novel financial incentives in the farm finance space.

FBN will connect farm environmental performance with the financial performance of the fund, creating insights into the relationship between regenerative practices and farm risk and creditworthiness, and providing investors and agricultural lenders with a new investment opportunity that has the potential to scale across millions of acres. FBN plans to scale the fund to $500 million over three years, accessing public markets to securitize and sell these loans to investors who seek liquid, environmentally friendly investments.

FBN is an independent ag tech platform and farmer-to-farmer network with a mission to power the prosperity of family farmers around the world while working towards a sustainable future. Its Farmers First promise has attracted over 33,000 members to the network with a common goal of helping farmers maximize their farm's profit potential with data and technology enabled direct-to farmer commerce, community and sustainability offerings. FBN has set out to redefine value and convenience for farmers by helping reduce the cost of production and maximize the value of their crops. FBN members farm more than 81 million acres in the U.S., Canada and Australia. The company has over 800 personnel and offices in San Carlos, Calif.., Chicago, Ill., Sioux Falls, S.D., a Canadian headquarters in High River, Alberta, and an Australian headquarters in Perth.

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