Regenerative Grazing to Mitigate Climate Change (2021-2022)


The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed that previous climate change predictions were drastic underestimates and warming must be capped at 1.5 degrees to avoid extreme climate disruptions. There is potential for agriculture, representing 13.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, to cut its emissions and store additional CO2 in soil.

Cattle are the largest contributor to agriculture emissions, but recent research shows promising results for pasture-based carbon sequestration as a climate solution in the Southeastern U.S. This is further validated by’s evaluation of climate solutions that includes silvopasture, regenerative agriculture, conservation agriculture and managed grazing all within the top 20 most impactful intervention efforts.

Industrial cattle production is dominant in the United States but globally contributes only 10% of total beef produced. Targeting pastured cattle could build a globally applicable agriculture emissions solution that prioritizes equity by supporting U.S. farmers who are often excluded by USDA and Farm Bill policies. Small-scale systems are more adaptable, while support for graziers assists rural economic development and resilience-building for the impacts of climate change.

Project Description

Building on two years of work, this project team’s primary goal will be to facilitate a dramatic expansion in the adoption and success of regenerative grazing systems in North Carolina and the Southeast. The team will aim to create a robust ecosystem of financing, policy and technical expertise through collaboration with key community partners necessary to encourage and support this expansion.

Team members will expand on existing partnerships with non-profits and government officials to promote policy innovations that place regenerative grazing infrastructure and producer access on equal footing with the dominant industrial model. They will continue to build partnerships with local universities, non-profits and businesses, and will initiate long-term research studies in collaboration with these partners, monitoring soil indices tied to ecological health and productivity of farms, watershed and regional natural resource concerns.

Team members will also use interviews and case studies to gather data, refine deliverables and better understand current barriers to adopting regenerative grazing and create farmer-centric solutions. Field data will add to existing soil carbon data and help create a baseline against which to measure future soil carbon sequestration. 

The team will also look through archives to document changes in North Carolina’s agricultural economy and tell stories of regenerative agriculture as well as of those who have worked the land. The team will pull data from the USDA to analyze subsidies of industrialized cattle production, compare those to subsidies for regenerative practices and use this information to recommend policy changes that will facilitate a shift to more resilient, and less damaging, practices.

Anticipated Outputs

Pilot carbon offset project; landscape analysis of carbon offset protocols; Conservation Innovation Grant application; GIS analysis, StoryMap and interpretive signs for Williamson Preserve; soil sample data; model policy for healthy soils legislation


Fall 2021 – Spring 2022

  • Fall 2021: Convene external partners to set common research agenda; conduct soil sampling/monitoring at pilot site(s); prototype and refine documentation tool; conduct drone/LIDAR analysis of Williamson Preserve; seek IRB review of farmer survey and interviews; interview experts on carbon offset monitoring; field trip to Hickory Nut Gap Farm; archival research on land use and farming practices; present key findings from project to-date, including Quivera’s Regenerate 2021 and Carolina Farm Stewardship Sustainable Agriculture Conference
  • Spring 2022: Focus groups: livestock farmers across NC; draft monitoring protocol for carbon farm plans using student verifiers and university laboratories; finalize interpretive signs for Williamson Preserve; draft healthy soils model policy

See earlier related team, Regenerative Grazing to Mitigate Climate Change (2020-2021).


Team Leaders

  • Matthew Arsenault, Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative
  • Emma Fulop, Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative
  • Daniel (Lee) Miller, Duke Law
  • Michelle Nowlin, Duke Law

/graduate Team Members

  • Francesca Chiappett, Master of Environmental Management
  • Lydie Costes, Master of Environmental Management
  • Megan Dister, Juris Doctor
  • Alix Foster, Master of Environmental Management
  • Kacey Katzenmeyer, Master of Environmental Management
  • Abby Martell, Master of Environmental Management
  • Laura Mindlin, Master of Environmental Management, Environmental Economics/Policy
  • Laura Navarro, Master of Environmental Management
  • Marco Paternoster, Juris Doctor

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Margaret Reed
  • Stephon Ricks

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • David Johnston, Nicholas School of the Environment-Marine Science and Conservation
  • Daniel Richter, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza, Nicholas School of the Environment
  • Jennifer Swenson, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Jennifer Curtis, Firsthand Foods
  • Alan Franzluebbers, North Carolina State University
  • Laura Lengnick, Cultivating Resilience, LLC
  • Michelle Lovejoy, NC Foundation on Soil and Water Conservation
  • David Mullen, Undergraduate Student, NC State University
  • Andrea Padillio Guerroro, Undergraduate Student, NC State University
  • Matt Poore, North Carolina State University
  • Nick Wood, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association