Bridgestone Awarded $35 Million USDA Climate-Smart Grant to Advance Guayule Natural Rubber Production

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The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded Bridgestone Americas (Bridgestone) a $35 million climate-smart grant to invest in the desert shrub guayule in order to increase natural rubber production in the United States and provide growers with a crop that is more environmentally friendly while also tackling the ongoing water crisis in the Southwest.

The $35 million investment in guayule will enable Bridgestone to increase natural rubber production in the Southwestern US with reduced greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs in the area for local US farmers and Native American tribes to build a rubber bio-economy based on climate-smart and sustainable practices. This project is part of the USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Initiative.

“At Bridgestone, we have been committed to guayule as a domestic source of natural rubber since our research initiative in this desert shrub began in 2012 to offer a more sustainable solution for both our environment and economy,” said William Niaura, Director of Sustainable Materials and Circular Economy, Bridgestone Americas. “By participating in this larger industry-wide initiative led by the USDA, we can continue our commitment to establishing a natural rubber industry domestically in a climate-smart way alongside other industry thought leaders who are similarly dedicated to sustainable commodity production that will provide meaningful benefits for domestic growers.”

The USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities was established to enhance markets for American climate-smart commodities, leverage the greenhouse gas reductions from climate-smart commodity production, and offer direct, significant benefits to production agriculture, including to small and underserved producers. In the first round of funding for the partnership for climate-smart commodities, Bridgestone received the $35 million grant.

In the Southwest of the United States, Bridgestone will use grant money to increase the number of guayule producers among local farmers and Native American tribes. To support a domestic natural rubber industry in the US with the climate-appropriate crop in a region of the US that is suffering from drought, Bridgestone aims to educate regional growers on how to implement climate-smart practices for growing guayule. With the support of the grant, growers will be educated on the best agricultural methods for guayule’s ecological advantages, carbon sequestration in arid soils, water use, soil health, and nutrient delivery.

The $35 million award is intended to lower overall expenses for guayule growers and will be distributed over a five-year period from 2023 to 2027. By applying essential agricultural practices and using guayule as a way to reduce agriculture’s carbon impact to 0%. Bridgestone also hopes to optimize water use in guayule production so that it matches growers’ water allotments and encourages producers to adopt sustainable practices.

Along with Bridgestone, the University of Arizona, Colorado State University, OpenET, Environmental Defense Fund, Tohono O’odham Nation, Colorado River Indian Tribes, and eight local growers are all partners in the $35 guayule climate-smart grant.

In 2012, Bridgestone broke ground on a guayule processing and research center in Mesa, Arizona, kicking off its guayule research effort. The company still runs a 281-acre guayule farm near Eloy, Arizona, in addition to the Mesa operation. Bridgestone has so far spent more than $100 million on its guayule commercialization efforts.

Additionally, Bridgestone has received numerous research funding from the US government for the development of guayule, including ones from the US Department of Agriculture (July 2017) and the US Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (September 2021).

Recent announcements by Bridgestone include plans to work with more local farmers in Central Arizona and 350 additional acres of guayule to be planted in 2023. Bridgestone said in August 2022 that it will invest an additional $42 million to start up commercial operations, with further expansion and investment planned for 2030. By making this investment, local American farmers and Native American tribes will have access to up to 25,000 more acres of farmland, increasing their ability to plant and harvest guayule at a large scale.

Guayule is a part of Bridgestone’s strategy to produce tires entirely out of sustainable materials by 2050 and become carbon neutral. By the end of the decade, the company hopes to begin commercial manufacturing of natural rubber made from guayule

The guayule initiative aligns with the Bridgestone E8 Commitment which consists of 8 Bridgestone-like values starting with the letter “E” (Energy, Ecology, Efficiency, Extension, Economy, Emotion, Ease, and Empowerment) to realize a sustainable society. This initiative aligns with the company’s “Ecology” and “Energy” commitments.

Source: Bridgestone Americas

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