American Farmland Trust Leads Group in Effort to Transition U.S. Beef Supply to Carbon Neutral - American Farmland Trust

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UPDATED: American Farmland Trust Leads Group in Effort to Transition U.S. Beef Supply to Carbon Neutral 

Cattle graze in a field outside of North English, Iowa, Sept. 13, 2017. USDA Photo by Preston Keres

USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Grant $30 Million for Project

(Washington, DC) American Farmland Trust and partner organizations are being awarded a $30-million grant from the USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities to spearhead an effort to transition the U.S. beef supply chain to carbon neutral. The eight-state project will amplify production of climate-smart beef by expanding market drivers, grassroots support networks and early adopter mentors, while also providing technical assistance for the adoption of climate-smart grazing practices to substantially reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration.

“This effort is critical in transitioning the country’s beef supply chain to one that is more environmentally friendly,” said Beth Sauerhaft, AFT vice president of programs. “Beyond this, we will support farmers in protecting their land through permanent easements to help ensure that the soil health and climate benefits from those practices continue far into the future.”

The project will help produce climate-smart beef for all market levels – from direct sales through local farmers markets to regional distribution channels to national and global consumer-facing food companies. The project team will engage and train more than 50 producer mentors, transition more than 750 beef operations, map and increase soil function on about 600,000 acres and permanently protect at least 3,000-4,500 acres of threatened farmland.

“We are excited about the level of impact we will be able to achieve with this project,” said Bianca Moebius-Clune, AFT climate initiative director and principal investigator. “We anticipate being able to sequester at least 1 – 5 million tons of CO2e during the 5-year project, but more importantly we project self-sustaining and accelerating expansion of climate-smart system adoption and stable, broadly available verified climate-smart marketing opportunities beyond the end of USDA funding.”

AFT and its partners will provide a range of virtual and in-person outreach and training. It will further help interested landowners and local land trusts explore options for farmland protection that directly reinforce climate-smart systems adoption.

In addition to AFT, project partners include: The Integrity Beef Alliance, Indigo Agriculture, Earth Optics, Freedmen Heirs Foundation, AgriWebb, Regenified, OpenTEAM, U.S. Biochar Initiative and many regional and community-based partners.

“The Integrity Beef Alliance is thrilled to have received USDA funding enabling the alliance and our partners to aggressively move forward on the industry game-changing Legacy Beef program benefiting producers, consumers and our planet,” said Meredith Ellis, Integrity Beef Alliance board member and producer member.

“The USDA grant is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate regenerative approaches to the beef cattle industry that are good for the environment, people, animals and the ranch bottom line. Not only will the Integrity Beef Legacy program facilitate broad market access to higher premiums for climate-smart beef for all sizes of operations, but we plan to continue support for underserved producers after the project period by allotting up to 50% of Alliance net income as grants to new producers to help offset costs of regenerative transitions.” added Robert Wells, executive director, Integrity Beef Alliance.

“Indigo Ag is excited to partner with ranchers across the country, leveraging our experience in soil carbon measurement to better model the benefits of sustainable grazing practices on the environment,” said A.J. Kumar, vice president, Sustainability Science at Indigo Ag. “A bold, collaborative effort backed by rigorous measurement, this project will help unlock new opportunities for climate-smart ranchers to benefit from the mounting demand for low-carbon beef and successfully move the needle on climate.”

“EarthOptics is thrilled to be working with American Farmland Trust and the other partners,” says Lars Dyrud, CEO of EarthOptics. “With AFT’s assistance, we will be able to provide their farmers and ranchers with unprecedented quality and the highest resolution carbon mapping available today.”

“Freedmen Heirs Foundation is excited to have received USDA funding along with industry partners to identify minority and underserved farmers, launch pilot programs and provide training on implementing grazing methods that will increase soil health, and sequester carbon, while promoting climate-neutral beef,” said Seanicaa Edwards Herron, executive director, Freedmen Heirs Foundation.

“Actionable, accessible data is at the core of every U.S. beef producer’s ability to operate as profitably, productively and sustainably as possible,” said Kevin Baum, AgriWebb co-founder and CEO. “The support this grant will provide to climate-smart beef producers, both through mentorship and through accessible tech solutions, fuels our industry’s mission to deliver carbon-neutral products and empowers those doing the real work to make it happen.”

“The U.S. Biochar Initiative is looking forward to collaborating to promote the successful integration of sustainably sourced, climate-smart biochar amendments into regenerative grazing and manure management. This AFT-led project will create markets and help the biochar industry scale up for permanent carbon removal, which enhances nutrient management, soil health and long-term biological carbon sequestration,” said Tom Miles, USBI executive director.

“The Open Technology Ecosystem for Agricultural Management (OpenTEAM) and Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment is honored to collaborate with AFT and others in such a rich and growing community dedicated to providing the best possible agricultural knowledge to all, regardless of scale, culture or geography,” said Dorn Cox, research director, OpenTEAM Community. “We celebrate our work together as a first, important step in a larger human endeavor that will support urban and rural economies based on regenerating our working landscapes and the critical shared technological infrastructure needed for transformative change.”

The project will focus on piloting regenerative transitions in key states that: 1) lead the nation in beef production (Texas and Oklahoma); 2) represent significant numbers of small to midscale producers, with direct marketing opportunities (Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania); and 3) have among the highest numbers of Black producers (Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi). Success in these states, coupled with careful documentation and aggressive sharing of lessons learned, roadmaps to scaling, and innovations, can and will be replicated in other places across the nation.




American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.8 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.

Contact: Michael Shulman, E: ● P: (240) 888-2998


Integrity Beef Alliance Legacy Program is a producer run alliance that combines cutting edge technology, regenerative ranching principles, and robust market drivers to deliver climate-smart beef to

consumers. Integrity Beef Legacy is the first producer-developed program in the nation recognized by the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. Because Integrity Beef Legacy instills ranch level verification and traceability throughout the entire beef supply chain, consumers can make informed climate smart choices at their local grocery stores or farmers markets. This approach incentivizes regenerative production for producers of all scales within the nation’s beef supply chain.

Contact: Robert Wells, Ph.D. ● E: ● P: (580) 220-8714


Indigo Ag leverages nature-based and digital technologies to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the agriculture industry. The company’s core offerings — biotrinsic, Market+, and Carbon —  integrate across the supply chain to optimize how the world’s most impactful crops are produced, sourced, and distributed. Founded in 2014 with a mission to harness nature to help farmers sustainably feed the planet, Indigo enables a digital transition of the agriculture industry, connecting stakeholders across the agricultural ecosystem to unlock sustainability and profitability benefits for all.

Contact: Paula Sokolska,



At EarthOptics, we see soil. Differently. GroundTruth Ag, Inc., dba EarthOptics, was founded in 2018 and has offices in Raleigh, N.C.; Arlington and Blacksburg, Va.; Minneapolis, Minn.; and Fayetteville, Ark. EarthOptics is an agricultural technology company developing next-generation soil-sensing technologies that give growers revolutionary insights into the physical characteristics of their soil. EarthOptics beat out three finalists and more than 100 international agtech startup entries to win the AGCO Innovation Challenge Award during the 2021 World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit. We believe that below-ground precision and innovation in the soil space is long overdue. Our ultimate goal is to deliver point-of-care soil health insights – related to physical, chemical, and biological attributes of soil – in real time. To achieve this goal, we’ve assembled a team with diverse backgrounds in engineering, software development, geospatial analytics, data science, machine learning, and logistics and operations.
To learn more, visit or connect with us on LinkedIn at

Contact: Todd Martin,



Freedmen Heirs Foundation was founded in 2020 with a mission and vision to promote the prominence, profitability, and sustainability of Black-owned farms and farmers by providing access to capital and new market entry. Freedmen Heirs Foundation is expediting change in the U.S. agriculture sector by bridging the gap between two worlds: Black farmers and the marketplace while creating economic and socially responsible opportunities. Currently, Freedmen Heirs is expanding market access by forging relationships among top leaders across all sectors of U.S. agriculture and the food supply chain to create new connections, share knowledge, and generate innovative ideas to support the growth and profitability of Black farmers and landowners.

Contact: Seanicaa Edwards Herron,


AgriWebb is the singular digital platform that moves our industry forward. Our proprietary Livestock Business Management solutions empower producers and supply chain innovators to visualize, connect, and leverage unique business insights to create a more profitable, efficient, and sustainable future. We believe the farmers who carry on the legacy of the livestock industry are also the stewards of our society’s future; of a planet that is fertile and a population that is fed. Preferred by over 16,000 farmers and ranchers worldwide, entrusted to the oversight of more than 18 million animals, and welcoming more than 250 new users each month, AgriWebb is the singular connected platform that enables our industry to innovate as efficiently, sustainably, and successfully as possible.

Contact: Matthew Shoup,


USBI is a not-for-profit organization promoting the sustainable production and use of biochar through research, policy, technology and doing it! Our Vision is to leave a legacy of fertile soils and carbon sequestered by raising awareness of and increasing the utilization of biochar through collaborative efforts with organizations involved in production, application, and research. Our Mission is to promoteg biochar in North America for sustainable food security, improved soil fertility, environment, and climate resilience.

To learn more, visit US Biochar Initiative | US Biochar Initiative (

Contact: Tom Miles,


Facilitated by Wolfe’s Neck Center, OpenTEAM is a farmer-driven, collaborative community of farmers, ranchers, scientists, researchers, engineers, farm service providers, programmers and food companies who are committed to improving soil health and advancing agriculture’s ability to become a solution to climate change through the co-development of an interoperable suite of tools. This technology ecosystem will equip food systems leaders and provide farmers around the world with the best possible knowledge to improve soil health.
A sustainable coastal farm for nearly sixty years, Wolfe’s Neck Center is a nonprofit, farm-based education, research, and visitor center on a mission to transform our relationship with food and farming.
 Wolfe’s Neck Center is home to an oceanfront campground, leading demonstration farm, and educational resource center for innovative practices in regenerative agriculture.

To learn more, visit OpenTEAM – Open Technology Ecosystem for Agricultural Management and Sustainable Coastal Farming | Wolfe’s Neck Center | Freeport, Maine (

Contact: Dorn Cox,

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