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Walmart Backs Major Regenerative Cotton Fund

The Walmart Foundation, Walmart’s charitable arm addressing economic, environmental and social challenges, has bestowed a $2 million three-year grant on the Soil Health Institute’s (SHI) U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund (USRCF), a science-based initiative designed to empower farmers and their advisors with the tools, resources and networks they need to successfully adopt regenerative soil health systems.

Regenerative cotton farming restores and rebuilds cotton’s natural ecosystems that augment the crop’s and the soil’s overall health. The donation to the USRCF will help scale activities of the project and expand it to Alabama and South Carolina from its current confines in Texas, Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi, furthering its aim to eliminate one million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) from the atmosphere by 2026.

The SHI is a global non-profit that safeguards and enriches the vitality and productivity of soils through scientific research.

“Regenerative soil health systems can provide significant benefits for farmers, food supply chains, our climate, and nature,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, chief sustainability officer and executive VP at Walmart Inc. and president of the Walmart Foundation. “However, adoption of soil health practices remains low. The USRCF’s scientific approach empowers farmers and aligns with the Foundation’s work on regenerative agriculture. We are excited to support this ambitious project to support farmers with the resources and tools they need to adopt more regenerative systems and accurately measure the outcomes of these practices for their land and livelihoods.”

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Through the one-year-old USRCF, SHI has established farmer-to-farmer education networks with more than 100 cotton farmers, delivered 12 education programs, sampled soils in over 200 locations to develop soil health and soil carbon targets, interviewed farmers managing 11,000 acres to assess their financial experiences with regenerative systems, delivered initial economic results to growers managing 187,000 acres, and mentored five student interns from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to train them for leadership positions in U.S. agriculture.

“The USRCF is making good progress,” said Dr. Cristine Morgan, SHI’s chief scientific officer. “The drought conditions sweeping across the Cotton Belt this year only underscore the importance of soil health systems to farmers’ livelihoods because they can build drought resilience and increase profitability. We feel fortunate to have the Walmart Foundation’s support that will allow us to expand the reach and impact of the USRCF to Alabama and South Carolina.”

The U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund was initiated last year with a founding grant from the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation. The VF Foundation is a sustaining supporter and Levi Strauss & Co. is a contributing supporter. Participating partners currently include Cotton Incorporated, National Cotton Council, Field to Market, Arkansas Soil Health Alliance, DELTA F.A.R.M. and the University of Georgia.

In 2021, the USRCF was selected as an Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) Innovation Sprint Partner, a joint initiative by the United States and United Arab Emirates to boost investments in climate-smart agriculture.

Walmart founded the Walmart Foundation as an internal corporate philanthropic organization in 1982. Together with Walmart, the Foundation generally provides more than $1 billion in cash and in-kind giving annually.