Baltic Sea Action Group will start collaborating with the dairy company Valio to mitigate climate change. In spring 2019, BSAG and Valio will begin training dairy farmers to become so-called carbon farmers: the farmers can learn new ways to sequester carbon in the soil and can share the good cultivation practices already in use. The cooperation is part of Valio’s more extensive project portfolio the food company has in its effort towards a carbon-neutral milk chain.
Climate change and population growth pose a significant challenge to the world’s food production. There is a need to produce more food, yet simultaneously the environmental impacts of food production must be significantly reduced. Merely reducing emissions is not enough to stop the rise in average global temperatures; we must also eliminate carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
– Carbon is transferred into the soil by photosynthesis and, depending on the condition and functioning of the soil, it is either quickly recirculated or stored in the soil in permanent forms. That is why farmers who take care of soil condition hold one set of keys to climate change, emphasises Saara Kankaanrinta, Chair of BSAG’s Board of Directors.
– Overly one-sided farming practices have, in places, weakened field conditions and their ability to sequester carbon. Crop rotation, high grass species diversity, and maintaining a year-round grass cover are examples of ways that farmers can promote the sequestering of carbon into the soil. Porous soil is also good at holding nutrients and prevents their run-off into water systems. That is why environmental work and protecting the Baltic Sea go hand in hand, Kankaanrinta says.
The BSAG, Finnish Meteorological Institute, and Sitra’s Carbon Action project has involved 100 Finnish farms in testing practical carbon farming over the past year. Valio’s dairy farms have also been included. In spring 2019, Valio and BSAG will together launch training teams tailored specifically for Valio farms. During the next two years, 200 farms will have the opportunity to learn carbon farming. Ambitious scientific research will be conducted alongside the practical work.
– The collaboration with BSAG is great, because we will be able to give tested cultivation methods to our farms as soon as next spring. A big number of our milk producers want to solve environmental problems and at the same time improve the profitability of farms. It’s our job to provide them with knowledge and support quickly. Valio’s long-term goal is a carbon-neutral milk chain, meaning that the carbon footprint of our products is zero, says Valio’s Juha Nousiainen, SVP for Primary Production and Milk Procurement.
– As a big and influential player, Valio can accelerate the change and encourage farms to cultivate carbon. The example a big player sets obviously influences in other ways and is something that also consumers pay attention to. We are very pleased with the launch of the collaboration, Saara Kankaanrinta notes.
Valio is owned by 5,300 dairy farms through its co-operatives, and it produces 80 percent of Finland’s milk.
– We are committed to training all Valio dairy farms in carbon farming by 2035. Environmental action groups play an important role in pushing companies: the best outcome is all of us learning from each other, says Anu Kaukovirta-Norja, SVP, Research and Technology, Valio.