HSBC grant already benefiting fields and farmers across the Midwest

Monday, May 23, 2022

HSBC grant already benefiting fields and farmers across the Midwest

The Midwest plays a large role in the global agricultural system – about a third of the world’s corn and soybeans are produced in the region. With so much of the world’s row crop production occurring in a geography that is increasingly experiencing the impact of climate change, extreme weather, and decades of unsustainable agricultural practices, it is critical to protect the environment and ensure the region’s continued productivity.

To that end, Midwest Row Crop Collaborative (MRCC) members are working with partners to address system challenges and develop scalable solutions that will support a more resilient landscape and food and agricultural system.

A key partner to MRCC, HSBC Bank USA is helping accelerate conservation efforts and the adoption of these climate-smart practices through a $1.6 million grant awarded last year that is helping grow the number of farmers implementing nature-based solutions. Scaling these practices can increase biodiversity, recover soil health, improve water quality, and enhance ecosystem services in the landscape, and this work builds on five existing projects in the Upper Mississippi River Basin developed to do just that.

While only in the first year of the grant funding, great strides have already been made to support farmers and help scale the adoption of climate-smart practices.

Protecting soil health in Iowa and Nebraska

Teaming up with Practical Farmers of Iowa, MRCC members PepsiCo, Bayer, and Cargill are deploying the HSBC funds to encourage more farmers to add small grains and legumes as cover crops into corn and soybean rotations. The program offers financial and technical assistance for growers to reduce fertilizer use, demonstrating the benefits of adding nitrogen-fixing cover crops and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With the HSBC grant, partners were able to leverage an additional $268,000 of cost sharing from public and private funding sources.

Participating farmers incorporate small grains such as oats, winter wheat, cereal, and hybrid rye into field rotations, providing cover on their soil during the winter and spring to help reduce runoff and erosion. These farmers eliminated or greatly reduced the amount of synthetic fertilizer applied to their fields, and about half said they used no tillage on their small grain. While still in the early stages, farmers have expressed interest in the small grains cost-share program, and there’s been good progress made in the first year.

“They (Practical Farmers of Iowa) helped by giving me an extra incentive to practice the small grain route. My farm needed an extra boost from the small grain crop to help heal the soil,” reported a farmer participating in the Nebraska program.

Adoption of this practice is still scarce, partly due to a lack of markets. This project is piloting cost-share and market-based mechanisms with grain and animal protein supply chain partners to grow the small grain market and support farmers in the shift to regenerative agriculture.

“Over half the farmers in the program said they are interested in increasing their acres of small grains, showing there’s an opportunity to expand the acres of legume cover crops with proper market development,” said Lydia English, field crops viability manager for Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Illinois farmers receive financial support for cover crops

The Precision Conservation Management program of the Illinois Corn Growers Association works to produce measurable improvements in water quality while ensuring farmers benefit from these positive conservation outcomes. Funding from HSBC is being matched by partners including Cargill, PepsiCo, Illinois Corn Growers Association, and the Illinois Soybean Assocation. Participating farmers also have access to an exclusive pool of funding through NRCS’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program. This pool, coupled with the cost share funding from HSBC and other partners, covers the cost of implementing cover crops for farmers...

The HSBC and partner funding allowed the program to expand into a new region, already reaching 25 more farmers as of January. About 1,110 acres of cover crops were planted on the enrolled fields in this region last year. Participating farmers are gathering data on the impacts of their practices, which will be used to help other farmers make informed decisions about adding cover crops into their rotations.

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