Compeer Financial and Land Core have formed a new partnership in which the member-owned Farm Credit cooperative will support the soil health nonprofit’s cross-sector initiative to build a predictive model of the benefits of soil health practices.
“It’s an educational partnership for our clients,” explains Heidi Bubela, director of quantitative analysis with Compeer Financial. “We’re hoping it will be a win-win for our clients and for the environment.”
There is broad scientific consensus that soil health practices such as cover crops, no-till and diverse crop rotations can improve resilience to flood and drought, and can sequester carbon. Mounting evidence also shows that these de-risking practices can improve yield stability and farmer profitability over time. Yet there is still a need for economic incentives to help producers adopt these operational changes.
“The Land Core Risk Model will give financial service providers the missing tools they need to quantify the risk reduction benefits of soil health practices,” says Harley Cross, co-founder and director of strategy at Land Core. “This will enable them to develop incentives that de-risk their clients’ operations and de-risk their own lending and insurance portfolios at the same time.”
Land Core is an independent 501(c)3 organization with a mission to advance soil health policies and programs that create value for farmers, businesses and communities. The organization is building the missing infrastructure and market-based incentives that will make the rapid adoption and scalability of soil health possible. Its programs include federal policy, land leasing, education and risk modeling.
Compeer will develop and pilot various incentive options based on the Land Core Risk Model in 144 counties in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota later this year, becoming the first major agricultural financial services provider to approach risk assessment through the lens of sustainability and soil health.
“We will do a pilot rollout with a small group, and build upon it from there,” Bubela says.
Bubela says the partnership is an investment in evidence-based research that will help quantify the benefits of soil conservation practices on farms across the Upper Midwest.
“We want our clients to succeed and also help agriculture in impacting climate change,” she says. “We think soil health practices could help them manage risk.”
The Land Core Risk Model, which uses satellite imagery to quantify the impacts of soil health practices on yield stability, is being developed by a cross-sector team of experts including faculty and researchers from the University of California Berkeley, Michigan State University and UC Davis, along with industry-leading modelers and advisors from Regrow, CiBO Technologies, Open Rivers Consulting Associates, Stanford University and Colorado State University. Compeer Financial will now bring decades of industry insights in both lending and insurance to provide active feedback and financial support for the model’s pilot development.
“Compeer’s innovation and proactive leadership in this space could change the way risk is assessed in ag lending and insurance in the coming years, and scale the transition to soil health practices, radically improving the sustainability of U.S. agriculture,” says Aria McLauchlan, co-founder and executive director of Land Core.
“I’ve seen the benefits of cover cropping and other soil health practices in improving resilience on my farm over the last 15 years,” says Rick Clark, Clark Land and Cattle. “It’s exciting to see an organization like Compeer acknowledging these impacts and to know that a whole new generation of farmers will benefit from this approach to risk assessment, reducing the barriers to adopting more sustainable practices.”