Delivering the week’s top organic food news
2.5.2020
100% Non-GMO

What the Partnership between rePlant Capital and Danone North America Truly Represents -- The New Way of Doing Business

(Food activist Robyn O'Brien at a TED Talk)


For long-time industry veteran Robyn O’Brien, something wasn’t sitting right.

On one hand, the picture was rosier than ever. Organic food companies were selling for hundreds of millions of dollars, and private equity and venture capital funds were throwing endless amounts of cash at young organic brands.

On the other hand, life on America’s farms was telling a vastly different story.

The U.S. agriculture industry was more than $426 billion in debt, and in the last five years, 2,789 Wisconsin dairy farms have gone out of business. With the USDA estimating 2019 median farm income to be -$1,383, the majority of farmers are forced to earn off-farm income to feed their families and keep their farms from going under.

The former Wall Street research analyst understood the gravity of the situation.

“If we are not solving systemic issues in the supply chain, we are toast. There is no organic industry. But you can’t fix a broken food system with a broken financial system. The problem needs to be addressed at its source — with capital,” said O’Brien.

After many months of conversations with her eventual co-founders, Don Shaffer and David Haynes, both of whom have deep experience in social impact investing, they launched rePlant Capital.

rePlant Capital is a new type of financial services firm that partners with farmers, ranchers, large food companies and technical assistance providers to facilitate more resilient agricultural practices at scale. Not only does it help finance farmers who want to transition to organic and those who seek to implement more regenerative practices, but where it differs from many other financial institutions is that it treats the farmer truly as a partner in the process and ensures that its loans result in a positive impact on the environment.

Just the other day, rePlant announced that 40% of its $50M initial fund will be dedicated to farmer partners of Danone North America.

For rePlant, the partnership with Danone makes sense for several reasons. On a practical level, making loans to Danone’s farmers means there is a long-term, stable buyer for the farms’ products, which makes the loans more creditworthy. Equally as important, Danone and rePlant share similar values and intentions.

Danone North America, the largest B-corporation in the world, understands that its future depends on the health of the planet and its supply chain. Along with committing $6M to soil health initiatives, the company has made a strategic decision to ensure the viability of its farmers.

“40% of our supply chain is in a cost-plus model, something that we started in 2011. By focusing on people, planet and profit, we want to lead the way in showing what a big food company can create and how far it can go,” said Tina Owens, Senior Director of Food & Agriculture Impact at Danone North America.

As rePlant and Danone are demonstrating, prioritizing the environment and the health of farmers is the only way of doing business if we want to ensure the long-term viability of our industry. And if we are serious about making regenerative agriculture a priority, regenerative financial vehicles, such as rePlant, must be part of the equation.

Most importantly, organic farmers need to be seen by all industry stakeholders as valued partners — rather than just dispensible suppliers.

With gratitude,

Max Goldberg, Founder

This Week's News Items

Weekly News Summaries

First Course
Center for Food Safety

Siding with Monsanto/Bayer, Trump EPA Once Again Greenlights Roundup

Ignoring science, the EPA repeatedly fails to assess glyphosate's impacts on human health and endangered species.

Supermarket News

Earth Fare to Close All 50 Stores by the End of February

By Russell Redman 1

The Asheville, N.C.-based organic and natural grocer, which operates in 10 states, announced that it is closing its doors and liquidating all of its inventory.

The Guardian

In the UK, the Organic Industry Grew by 4.5% in 2019

By Rebecca Smithers

The organic food sector in the UK rose by 4.5% last year, with sales of online retail and home delivery surging by 11.2%.

Newsweek

Very Risky GE-Moths Released into the Wild

By Rosie McCall

In a massive risk to our ecosystem, genetically-engineered moths have been released into the environment to deal with the diamondback moth pest issue.

Second Course
Organic Consumers Association

Where Do the 2020 Presidential Candidates Stand on GMOs?

By Alexis Baden-Mayer

A detailed look at where all of the Democratic and Republican candidates stand in regards to GMOs.

Business Insider

Whole Foods shoppers Report Food Shortages and Empty Shelves at Some Stores

By Hayley Peterson

It has been reported that supplier and weather-related issues are to blame for food shortages at some Whole Foods stores.

Yahoo!

Kellogg pledges to Phase Out Glyphosate by 2025

In another blow to the chemical industry, U.S. cereal giant Kellogg has set a goal of phasing out the controversial weedkiller glyphosate from its supply chain by 2025.

Third Course
PR Newswire

Sun+Earth approves First Five Oregon Producers of Regenerative Cannabis

Sun+Earth, a nonprofit regenerative certification program for the cannabis industry, has approved its first five businesses in Oregon.

TechCrunch

Thistle raises $5.65M for its Series A Round

By Josh Constine

Co-founded by fellow Brown University alum Ashwin Cheriyan, Thistle -- which delivers organic juices and prepared meals -- has closed on a $5.6M round led by PowerPlant Ventures.

Food Dive

Food Manufacturers Can Put GMO Labels on Their Products in 2020. Will They?

By Magan Poinski

Large manufacturers need to disclose detectable bioengineered ingredients by 2022, and attorneys and analysts think many will wait until the last minute.


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This Week's Quick Hits

Quick Hits

* Professor Tyrone Hayes, whose work on the dangers of atrazine made him a target for agribusiness giant Syngenta, will keynote The Organic Center’s Annual Benefit Dinner at Expo West.


* Kansas has become the 4th state with an unconstitutional “ag-gag” law.


* New Hope Network, the organization that puts on Expo West and Expo East, has announced a goal to eliminate single-use plastic from these trade shows by 2022.


* Egypt’s parliament has approved an Organic Agriculture Law.


* Dr. Kathleen Delate, Rodale Pioneer award winner and professor at Iowa State University, has published a study showing that integrated organic crop and livestock production systems can conform to food safety standards.


* The Warda family in Texas has launched a new organic dessert concept called DessertsRx.


* Can zero-waste restaurants succeed in New York?


* There is now a CBD pillow.


* MIT and IIT are using an ethnography-based system and dynamics modeling to determine the ideal conditions to transition from conventional to organic farming.


* In regenerative news…..General Mills has launched a multi-year regenerative agriculture pilot with wheat growers in central Kansas. Danone North America and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation have joined forces to leverage $3M in federal funding to improve the economic resiliency and soil health of farms.


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