By Margy Eckelkamp, The Scoop magazine
Enrollment is open through May 31 for Nutrien’s Sustainable Nitrogen Outcomes program. The program is open for corn, cotton and wheat growers, and outlines a specific parameter for participation: a 5% reduction in nitrogen rates. Additionally, growers can receive rebates on using enhanced efficiency fertilizer products.
Sally Flis, Nutrien Ag Solutions Director of Sustainable Ag Strategic Partnerships, says this program is designed with simplified eligibility and will hopefully serve as an effective stepping stone for farmers to engage with these new opportunities.
“The Climate Action Reserve Nitrogen Action plan we’ve based this program on is requiring farmers to reduce their total amount of nitrogen on a field-level by 5%,” she explains. “It’s a lot easier of a lift for farmers and an easier entry point to participate than other programs which require nine years of data and soil testing.”
The 5% reduction is based on a three-year baseline amount applied for the same crop. “It doesn’t matter how you get to the 5% rate reduction,” Flis says. “It could be variable rate; it could be strip-till; or it could be another method to adjust the overall rate applied to a field.”
Growers can receive two financial incentives for participation in the Sustainable Nitrogen Outcomes program. First, they are paid $15/ton for emissions reductions in carbon equivalent tons, which is approximately 0.05 to 0.25 tons per acre.
Second, if farmers use Loveland Products plant nutrition lineup, they can receive a rebate in using those products once enrollment in the Sustainable Nitrogen Outcomes program.
From the 2021 pilot program Nutrien ran last year, Flis says the company learned a lot about all of the pieces required to build a large-scale carbon program. And mostly, she points to an overall lack of the necessary data.
“Moving forward, we should all focus on helping farmers establish high quality data, so that farmers are up-to-date with higher requirements in the future,” she says. “The whole community of crop consultant has a primary job, and it’s not data collection. So have to find them the right tools and the right support to make it easy for them and the grower.”
Nutrien’s role in the industry is a unique one as both a fertilizer manufacturer as well as a company that maintains one of the largest networks of ag retailers in the U.S.
Flis says another goal of this program is to bring interest from farmers who were initially turned off from participation because carbon programs seemed too complex.
“This is a nice project to start with. You only need three of rate and yield data for a crop, and then you’re committing to one year of production practices,” she says.
She says this program also can appeal to farmers who are already doing cover crops or reduced tillage practices and therefore may not otherwise qualify for programs based on those practice changes.
This program is aiming to springboard growth in farmer participant with the anticipation that the opportunities for these types of programs will only grow. And farmers can set the stage now for their participation.
“Carbon isn’t going away. The need for reporting production practices isn’t going away,” Flis says. “We want the grower to feel ready for whatever program they choose is a good fit for their farm.”