“Climate change” and “climate crisis” are topics that have gained the attention of policymakers and businesses across the globe. The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report released in 2021 noted, “Unless there are immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emission, limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C will be beyond reach.”
As stewards of our farms carbon footprint, we know the top three contributors are Feed, Manure, and Energy. In 2021, we focused our efforts on projects that would lower our carbon footprint in each of these hotspots.
Feed makes up over 47% of our sow farms carbon footprint. The most effective ways to reduce the carbon footprint of Feed is through on-field practices. Implementing certain practices like no-till, cover crops, or organic fertilizer can increase the carbon sequestration in the soil, thus reducing the amount of carbon that’s being released into the atmosphere.
Farming and Forestry, are the only two industries that have the capability to naturally sequester carbon presenting them a unique opportunity in today’s marketplace. Major corporations are announcing their “Carbon Negative by 20XX” goals. These companies are getting to work on using less electricity and resources to lower their carbon footprint. However; despite best efforts, most companies simply cannot entirely eliminate carbon/GHG emissions from their operations. In order to meet their stated goals, they will have to offset their continued GHG emissions with the purchase of carbon credits.
If farmers are implanting carbon sequestration practices, there are existing programs they can participate in to sell carbon credits. We engaged with numerous of these programs throughout 2021 and learned the following:
- Payments are too low to encourage participation. Farmers should not accept anything below cost of production.
- Existing programs are focused on precision reporting and soil samples leading to uncertain economics and slow adoption.
- To combat climate crisis, we need as many acres participating as quickly as possible, and a new model/approach is needed to get us there.
PIPESTONE is seeking opportunities that meet these objectives for farmers.
Manure is the second largest contributor to our carbon footprint. We’ve learned that facilities with deep pits vs. lagoons have roughly half the emissions. 75% of Pipestone Management facilities are built with deep pits and every new facility we build has a deep pit.
We’ve continued to explore opportunities for Methane Digesters. A lagoon site project could be financially viable if there were enough sows in close proximity. As most of Pipestone Management sites are deep pits and geographically dispersed, this would not work for our production model. With current technology and carbon credit markets, a methane digester would not be economically viable for the family farmer owners of Pipestone Managed sow farms. We are hopeful that new technologies or economic models may make this a viable option in the future.
We consulted with multiple renewable energy companies on having on-site solar panels or wind towers. We learned that the profitability of these projects greatly relies on tax incentives which our farms are not able to take advantage of. As an alternative to support renewable energy projects, we researched the purchase of REC’s (Renewable Energy Credits) from our local utility companies. In 2021, 26 of our sow farms began working with their local utility companies Renewable Energy Credit Programs. As a result of these partnerships, in 2021, 50.5% of our energy came from renewable sources.
The last two years we have spent significant time and resources validating the calculation of the carbon footprint of the pig. After consulting with three universities, two consulting companies, and two allied industry members, we were unable to come to a consensus on the “correct” calculation for a pig farm. What we did learn is that the science is still emerging and needs more validation.
Since carbon accounting has several discrepancies, we felt the most transparent and authentic way to show the carbon impact of our farm was with raw data. In other words, lbs of feed are lbs of feed and kWh used are kWh used. You can find all of the raw data needed to calculate a carbon footprint in this report, along with our goals on how to capture efficiencies in each area.