Our work is undertaken with a mindfulness of the important role agriculture must play in addressing climate change. The food system contributes an estimated 19%–29% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, both globally and in the U.S.6 Agriculture is a heavy emitter, yet agriculture is unique among industries because of its potential to draw carbon out of the atmosphere. We believe that regenerative food production can have a net positive effect on climate change, and as such we are focused on business practices that measure and manage our energy use, minimize our greenhouse gas (GHG) contribution, and accelerate the shift to renewables and innovative energy management technology.
This year, we are pleased to share a preliminary inventory of our greenhouse gas emissions in our Pacific Northwest farming operations, the result of our sustainability data collection efforts across the business. Our greenhouse gas inventory allows us to locate cost-effective reduction strategies, move toward emissions pricing, and prepare for regulatory interventions and carbon credit opportunities. (Modeling our California carbon footprint is ongoing and will be shared in subsequent reporting.) Based on the Agricultural Guidance from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol—a framework for quantifying climate impact, our emissions are divided into different “scopes” and assessed within the boundary of areas where we have operational control. We have used the Cool Farm Tool—a globally recognized calculator—to model our farm emissions. The EPA Center for Corporate Climate Leadership and the USDA COMET-Energy tool provide emissions factors for our off-farm sources. Although we have not yet sought external audits of our calculations, these figures represent our good faith efforts at conservatively reporting on our emissions based on the best available models and data.
Direct fugitive emissions (gases that leak from industrial equipment) from refrigerants can be an important factor for operations with substantial cold storage capacity, but our state-of-the-art packing facilities feature efficient ammonia refrigeration systems. Since ammonia has zero ozone depletion potential and zero global warming potential, our refrigeration systems do not release fugitive emissions. Two of our Pacific Northwest farms are net sinks of carbon. The Cool Farm Tool model indicates that carbon stocks on these farms sequester over one metric ton of CO2 per acre annually due to the beneficial tillage and cover cropping practices on these farms. Conversion from annual crops to no-till permanent crops has helped minimize soil disturbances and build soil organic carbon on these properties.
Our cover crop plantings of clover and perennial grasses also contribute substantially to carbon stocks by increasing biomass production and protecting soil health. Finally, woody biomass accumulation in our crops represents a significant carbon sink. The estimated annual biomass production of our crops far exceeds our total CO2 equivalent emissions. However, since the emissions impact of this stock depends on its long-term fate and the method of accounting, in the interest of conservative reporting we omit woody biomass from our total fund level emissions.