Diving Deeper Into Regenerative Agriculture

CAFNR, partners forming Center for Regenerative Agriculture

The University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) is going to dive deeper into regenerative agriculture by forming a new Center for Regenerative Agriculture.

While there is no single definition for regenerative agriculture, some key elements of the practice include increasing soil health and biodiversity, integrating a mix of conservation practices, and contributing to overall sustainability and profitability on working farms and ranches.

“We have been fortunate to obtain external funding to support the center, which will foster faculty and student collaboration across the entire college and will support key aspects of our new strategic plan for CAFNR,” said CAFNR Vice Chancellor and Dean Christopher Daubert. “As with other academic centers in CAFNR, this new center will create the opportunity to enhance our research, education and Extension impacts in agriculture and food systems, and create a focal point for efforts in the area of regenerative agriculture.”

An initial start-up grant to help the center get established and help hire a program manager is coming from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

“This partnership provides an incredible opportunity to collaborate with agricultural producers in Missouri,” said Missouri Department of Conservation Director Sara Parker Pauley. “Regenerative agriculture also has broad benefits for consumers, the environment, and conservation, and helps our agricultural products stay competitive and a coveted commodity in markets where food produced through sustainable farming practices is preferred.”

Complementary funding on cover crops and soil health that supports work related to the center is coming from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.

“Soil health is a major priority for NRCS in Missouri, and we are glad to see the University of Missouri addressing soil health along with other regenerative farming approaches,” said Scott Edwards, NRCS state conservationist.

Rob Myers, adjunct associate professor in the Division of Plant Sciences, will serve as the faculty director for the center.

Myers is a former National Program Leader for Sustainable Agriculture with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and for the last 10 years has been part of the CAFNR Division of Food Systems and Bioengineering working as regional director for Extension Programs with the North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Myers will continue his work with SARE, while providing leadership for the new center on a part-time basis.

“In planning the center, we gathered input from a variety of groups, including Missouri producers, some of whom will remain involved with the center on an advisory committee,” Myers said. “We have nearly 20 faculty at the University of Missouri who have expressed interest in participating with this new center, and I expect the number of internal and external partners to expand as activities get underway. We expect to provide a variety of information resources and programs for farmers, landowners and organizations seeking to improve the resiliency and sustainability of working lands while also enhancing profitability.”

Shibu Jose, associate dean in the CAFNR Office of Research, played an important role in the planning process of the new center. Jose said the new center will support one of CAFNR’s Grand Ideas, Healthy Ecosystems for Life on the Planet (HELP), identified in the CAFNR Strategic Plan.

“We are in the process of implementing our strategic plan and the new center is a major step forward in making one of the Grand Ideas, HELP, a reality,” Jose said. “Regenerative agriculture has become a major focal point for many people working in agriculture, including major food and agriculture companies. For example, Cargill recently announced a national goal of having 10 million acres of U.S. farmland using regenerative agriculture practices by 2030. Major food companies such as General Mills and Walmart Inc. have also been supporting regenerative agriculture as a priority for their efforts to address sustainability in their supply chains.”