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Nationwide Partnership Advances Regenerative Agriculture in Cotton

Opportunities to advance sustainable cotton farming in the United States are growing thanks to a nationwide partnership led by the Soil Health Institute’s United States Regenerative Cotton Fund (USRCF).

The fund’s holistic approach to advance economic insights, soil health measurement, and education has made significant progress in the U.S. Cotton Belt since its establishment, engaging more than 1,000 cotton farmers and their advisors. Its efforts support adoption of management systems to improve soil health, the foundation for regenerative agriculture.

“The soil health benchmarks SHI is providing are a great way to help farmers set realistic soil health goals and measure their success,” said fifth-generation cotton farmer Zeb Winslow, who hosted a recent USRCF field demonstration at his farm in North Carolina. “Reaching farmers where they’re at is important if we’re going to continue the soil health movement.”

Launched in 2021, USRCF is a farmer-facing, science-based initiative to support long-term, sustainable U.S. cotton production, with the goal of eliminating one million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere by 2026. Active in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas, the fund’s work is made possible by boots-on-the ground partnerships with U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, Cotton Incorporated, agricultural extension, local technical specialists, advisors, and cotton farmers.

Notable successes include:

  • Economic Insights: By assessing 19 farms representing 108,000 acres in Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina, researchers found farms implementing soil health management systems reduced production costs by an average of $53 per acre, increasing net farm income by an average of $150 per acre in their cotton rotations.
  • Soil Health Measurements: Benchmarks established on more than 2 million acres in Texas and Arkansas provide personalized soil health reports to farmers, describing the health of their soils, opportunities for improvement, and implications for carbon and water storage. These benchmarks can empower farmers and advisors to set science- and place-based soil health goals for their farms.
  • Experiential Learning for a Resilient Future: Eleven interns from Historically Black Colleges and Universities received first-hand experience translating science into action.
  • Farmer Education: USRCF organized over 25 field demonstrations and workshops led by SHI educators, farmer mentors, and technical specialists, tapping into trusted networks of local peers to help more than 1,300 farmers and advisors across seven states to improve soil health.

The USRCF was initiated through a founding grant from The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation. Walmart Foundation, The VF Foundation, Levi Strauss & Co., Hearst Foundations, and Cotton Incorporated are also supporters of the fund.

For more information about the U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund, please visit https://soilhealthinstitute.org/our-work/initiatives/us-regenerative-cotton-fund.

About the Soil Health Institute 

The Soil Health Institute is a global non-profit with a mission of safeguarding and enhancing the vitality and productivity of soils through scientific research and advancement. Our vision is a world where farmers and ranchers grow quality food, fiber, and fuel using soil health systems that sustain farms and rural communities, promote a stable climate and clean environment, and improve human health and well-being. By bringing together leaders in science and industry, SHI conducts research and empowers farmers and landowners to adopt soil health systems that contribute economic and environmental benefits to agriculture and society. Find out more at www.soilhealthinstitute.org or on YouTube, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

About The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation 

The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation works to make the dream of a better life reality by championing equity and empowering underserved communities around the world. Established in 2001, The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation is committed to making a difference across its core areas of focus: supporting cancer care and prevention, protecting the environment, fostering advocacy & access and strengthening community resilience. It hopes to deliver meaningful change in its communities through its nonprofit collaborations, grant funding and volunteering programs. For more information, please visit: https://corporate.ralphlauren.com/Foundation.

About Philanthropy at Walmart 

Walmart.org represents the philanthropic efforts of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation. By focusing where the business has unique strengths, Walmart.orgworks to tackle key social and environmental issues and collaborate with others to spark long-lasting systemic change. Walmart has stores in 24 countries, employs more than 2 million associates and does business with thousands of suppliers who, in turn, employ millions of people. Walmart.org is helping people live better by supporting programs to accelerate upward job mobility for frontline workers, advance equity, address hunger, build inclusive economic opportunity for people in supply chains, protect and restore nature, reduce waste and emissions, and build strong communities where Walmart operates. To learn more, visit www.walmart.org or connect on Twitter @Walmartorg.

About The VF Foundation 

The VF Foundation, the philanthropic grantmaking arm of VF Corporation, one of the world’s largest active-lifestyle companies with a portfolio of iconic brands including Vans®, The North Face®, Timberland® and Dickies®, strives to innovate and problem solve to create a more active, equitable and sustainable world. Since its inception, The VF Foundation has granted more than $70 million globally to improve the communities where VF operates. For more information, please visit vfc.com.

About Levi Strauss & Co. 

Levi Strauss & Co. is one of the world’s largest brand-name apparel companies and a global leader in jeanswear. The company designs and markets jeans, casual wear and related accessories for men, women and children under the Levi’s®, Dockers®, Signature by Levi Strauss & Co.™, Denizen® and Beyond Yoga® brands. Its products are sold in more than 110 countries worldwide through a combination of chain retailers, department stores, online sites, and a global footprint of approximately 3,200 brand-dedicated stores and shop-in-shops. Levi Strauss & Co.’s reported 2023 net revenues were $6.2 billion. For more information, go to http://levistrauss.com, and for financial news and announcements go to http://investors.levistrauss.com.

About Hearst Foundations 

The Hearst Foundations are national philanthropic resources supporting the fields of culture, education, health and social services. The Hearst Foundations endeavor to ensure that people of all backgrounds in the United States have the opportunity to build healthy, productive and inspiring lives.

About Cotton Incorporated 

Cotton Incorporated is a research and promotion company for upland cotton. Funded by U.S. cotton growers and importers of Upland cotton-containing products, the not-for-profit organization’s mission is to increase the demand for and profitability of cotton. As a resource for the cotton industry, Cotton Incorporated conducts or oversees more than 450 research and educational projects in an average year. To learn more about cotton and sustainability, visit CottonToday.com and follow along on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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