It hardly matters if you’re dealing with food justice activists or tech-startup entrepreneurs. Small, independent farmers or the corporate leadership of agribusiness giants. Policy wonks or research scientists. Everyone is talking about regenerative agriculture. Some even say it’s the future—and not just of farming. The most fervent advocates say so-called “regenerative” practices have the power to restore the balance between human beings and nature, a solution finally big enough to save our beleaguered planet from all of us.

Buoyed by the optimism of food producers, foundations, and corporate leaders, the term has gained new levels of visibility in the past two years. It’s spawned books by farmers and filmmakers, features in The New York Times and The Washington Post, and at least one full-length filmKiss the Ground, a Netflix-distributed documentary. It’s become a marketing buzzword in the corporate world, too, with companies like McDonald’s, Target, Cargill, Danone, General Mills, and others pledging to use funds to support regenerative practices. The term has even been applied as a modifier to individual food products: In 2019, Applegate Farms, a subsidiary of major meatpacker Hormel Foods, debuted a line of “regenerative” sausages.

That private-sector momentum may soon get a public-sector boost. Advisers to President Joe Biden have suggested that the new administration launch a carbon bank for farmers as part of a plan to fight climate change, using the Commodity Credit Corporation—the same government war chest President Trump used to bail out mostly white, mostly wealthy farmers for income lost due to his trade war—to pay agricultural producers to sequester carbon in the soil.

It’s a promising idea. Advocates for regenerative farming argue that agricultural fields can help bury carbon deep under the ground, offsetting the disastrous climate effects of burning fossil fuels—and that potential promise is a central part of its appeal. Even members of the U.S. Senate, not lately known for their consensus-building abilities, have crossed party lines to get on board.

But the growing, still-incipient movement harbors a secret below its hopeful surface: No one really agrees on what “regenerative agriculture” means, or what it should accomplish, let alone how those benefits should be quantified.

Read the full article about regenerative agriculture by Joe Fassler at The Counter.